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The UK Government Tracks Journalists That Make Freedom of Information Requests

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

It is by now no surprise to learn that some facts about government, and associated agency decisions, especially controversial ones, do get revealed to citizens thanks to various, varying from country to country, Freedom of Information, known mostly as FOIA, acts.

Related: The Freedom of Information Act and How To Use It

But would it surprise you to learn that while allowing this no doubt to them annoying at least possibility to go on – governments are also in essence “nullifying” this freedom and free-speech-loving legislative “loophole” by trying to undermine it, whichever way they can?

The answer may easily be, “no, not surprising” – and, sad and disappointing as it may sound, if we said, it’s documented to be happening in the UK of all places – how many would actually be shocked.

Well, it’s happening in the UK. There, sure, on the outside, it’s fine if you as a media outlet file a FOIA request. But the dark underbelly is that each of these are – for a reason at this point known only to the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) – tracked.

The consequences, as reported by The Times, are that not only that the journalist who engage in this supposedly perfectly legal, uncontroversial (and thus surely, unworthy of any government tracking activity) actually do get tracked – but that the said government entity “appears to be delaying the release of data until clearance is given by political appointees.”

The translation of this is that FOIA-style requests in the UK are sabotaged for time – until they are (or not) given political “clearance.”

Let’s all remember – when George Orwell wrote “1984” – he likely may not have had his own country in mind. But Orwell seems to have foreshadowed much of his own country’s (political) future.

Today – if you’re a journalist in the UK submitting a FOIA – this is what you need to know.

“Ministry of Justice officials have compiled background profiles on journalists that make freedom of information requests, as well as apparently giving press officers and Conservative political appointees input on whether disclosures can be made,” the Times reports, adding that this information is derived from emails it has had access to.

There’s also a “slur-ish” name given to journalists who want to learn about facts via these requests – “data journalists.”

Data, one would assume, designates pure fact.

And then there’s the murky, ill-defined, “fight against misinformation.”

So what in the world might be wrong with – “data journalists”?

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

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