Information control in the United States is growing stronger as journalists face more restrictions on their ability to speak with people who work for the public good in agencies and institutions from the local to federal levels and are being targeted through illegal raids and confiscation of their equipment. Clearing the FOG speaks with Kathryn Foxhall, a journalist who works on freedom of information, about another journalist, Brittany Hailer, who is suing over restrictions on her ability to interview employees at a local jail where an unprecedented number of deaths are occurring. Foxhall explains why these restrictions are human rights abuses. Clearing the FOG also speaks with Seth Stern of the Freedom of Information Foundation and Bobby Block of the Florida First Amendment Foundation about journalists’ legal rights and their new Know Your Rights Guild for journalists.
Kathryn Foxhall has been a Washington reporter, mostly on health, for over 40 years, including 14 years as editor of the American Public Health Association’s newspaper. She has become a point person for the Society of Professional Journalists and others in opposing the new culture of gag rules. She was awarded the 2021 Wells Key, SPJ’s highest honor for members, specifically for that work.
Seth Stern is the director of advocacy at Freedom of the Press Foundation. He oversees FPF’s efforts to defend press freedoms and stand up for journalists and whistleblowers who have been denied their rights. Prior to joining FPF, Seth practiced media and First Amendment law in Chicago for over a decade. Before that, he worked as a reporter and editor in the Chicago and Atlanta areas. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.
Bobby Block has had a four-decade career in journalism, including contributing to the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of 9/11, which earned a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News in 2002.
He co-authored the book “Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security,” and has reported on various conflicts across the globe, including Rwandan genocide in 1994, and the executions of more than 8,000 men and boys by Serbian forces in a Bosnian village in 1995.
Block assumed his leading role with the Florida First Amendment Foundation on Feb. 1. In a press release announcing his hire, the foundation points to a “callous disregard for the law” in the erosion of First Amendment rights in Florida.
“Never has the work of the Foundation been more essential than it is now at a time when reporters and citizens across Florida are being stonewalled and denied their right to access government information,” Block said in a statement. “Public records and Sunshine laws are being routinely disregarded across Florida with seemingly no fear of reprisals. This cannot be allowed to stand for the sake of our democracy.”
In addition to the Wall Street Journal, Block has also reported for the Tribune Company, Reuters and the Independent of London. He has also contributed to the New York Review of Books.