Journalists’ FoI requests more likely to be rejected, stats show

David Sharman, Hold The Front Pa

Political chiefs stand accused of being “desperate to dodge scrutiny” after new figures showed journalists are having more Freedom of Information requests rejected than other applicants.
FoI campaigners have hit out after Glasgow’s Sunday Herald reported almost half of all requests made to the Scottish Government in the 2015/16 financial year by members of the media were partially or fully refused.

The 47pc rejection rate for journalists compared with 38pc for all requests.

The figures, which were originally obtained by the Scottish Labour Party, showed that in each of the past seven financial years, a greater proportion of FoI requests from journalists were rejected than those from the public as a whole.

The results come after 23 Scottish journalists called in June for a review of the way Holyrood deals with FoI requests, amid claims they are routinely being screened for potential political damage by special advisers.

Sunday Herald editor Neil Mackay, pictured above left, told HTFP: “This is a concern. A vibrant democracy needs to be as transparent as possible – and ensuring journalists have access to information in the interest of the public is the bedrock of democracy.

“We will continue our reporting and monitoring of this matter to ensure that freedom on information laws are upheld, respected and implemented to the letter.”

The figures also found civil servants have also been responding later to requests from MSPs than to the population at large.

Labour MSP and FoI campaigner Neil Findlay told the Herald: “This system is being abused and it is destroying trust in government.”

He added: “These laws are supposed to increase transparency and accountability of government, but the handling of freedom of information requests in recent times has all the hallmarks of a secretive government desperate to dodge scrutiny.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In the majority of cases, the Scottish Government responds on time and in full to FoI requests. The increasing volume and complexity of some requests can, however, prove time consuming and has the potential to impact seriously on the work of government.

“The number of FOI requests we receive has risen by almost half in recent years with more than 2,000 requests now regularly made each year.

“We are working with the Information Commissioner to ensure we continue to provide information in as timely a way as possible, and now proactively publish FOI responses on the Scottish Government website.”
uploaded: Wed, Aug 9 2017
modified: Tue, Dec 30 1969