UCL News


UCL in the News: FoI frustrates journalists, report finds

24 April 2007

Journalists find using the Freedom of Information Act useful for historical and investigative stories, but have also found the process of using the law "frustrating" according to a new study.

Researchers from the UCL Constitution Unit … found that some journalists from both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers had experienced "significant disappointment" with the process of getting answers to and appealing requests. …

"The absence of an effective appeal system that works in a reasonably timely fashion is at the root of journalists' cynicism regarding the Act," says the researchers' report, which is published in the current edition of the journal Open Government.

UCL Constitution Unit Director Robert Hazell said: "The media are the conduit through which much of the public learns about FOI, therefore, what they choose to publish is important. The problems journalists experience with the administration of the Act are not necessarily unique to them - the Act is fairly new and still bedding down.

"It remains to be seen, if and when new fee proposals are implemented, whether journalists will feel the brunt more than others." …

However, the study found that journalists' use of FOI requests had declined as the novelty of requesting information has worn off since the Act's introduction at the start of 2005.

Patrick Smith and Martin Stabe, 'Press Gazette'