How clever of Chris Grayling to wrap his big lie about Freedom of Information around a small truth (he probably thought).
Yes – it is true that information gained via FoI requests have been used to create news stories.
But – and this is a major, major but – only because the information that had been revealed was of public interest.
Look at This Writer’s FoI request about benefit claimant deaths. That came from a genuine interest in having updated information after the government itself released death figures in 2012.
It could be argued that the government turned it into a news story by refusing to provide that information. The obvious question is: Why? What’s so bad about these figures that the government wants to hide them?
The government put out a very limited release of information in August, but lied when it claimed that it had fully answered my FoI request, creating even more suspicion of its motives.
Look at other revelations that only happened because of FoI requests. Does Chris Grayling think it would have been better for the country not to know about the wholesale falsification of MPs’ expenses that was happening before the Torygraph exposed the practice in 2009?
That’s what he’s saying.
He’s saying people can ask about the mechanism of government decisions – but they must not be allowed to question the decisions themselves.
That is what’s unacceptable here.
A Tory minister has accused journalists of “misusing” freedom of information laws to “generate” stories.
Chris Grayling, the leader of the House of Commons, claimed journalists used the Freedom of Information Act as a “research tool” and said it should be used for “those who want to understand why and how government is taking decisions”.
His comments are likely to anger freedom of information campaigners and the media, which has used the law to uncover stories such as the Prince of Wales’s so-called “black spider letters”.
The government has set up an FoI commission to review the scope of existing laws, which permit members of the public, journalists and campaigners to access information.
The government, police forces and hospital trusts are among those covered by existing FoI laws, although campaigners fear the commission will recommend increasing the cost of requests and limiting its scope.
[Grayling said:] “It is on occasions misused by those who use it effectively as a research tool to generate stories for the media.
“That isn’t acceptable.
“It is a legitimate and important tool for those who want to understand why and how government is taking decisions and it is not the intention of this government to change that.”
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