Flailing Grayling makes a mess of his Freedom of Information lie

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.”

Source: Freedom of information laws ‘misused’ by journalists, says Chris Grayling | Media | The Guardian

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10 thoughts on “Flailing Grayling makes a mess of his Freedom of Information lie

  1. John.

    Being properly held to account is clearly a concept whose days are numbered in the corporate sponsored totalitarian cesspool the nasties are busily constructing.

  2. AndyH

    So we can extract the facts, as long as we don’t comment on them? We can discover people have died unnecessarily, but can’t point out this is a bad thing? I despise Grayling – from the sinister stare, to the pathological lying and the worrying possibility that he matches the profile of a psychopath.

  3. Florence

    This week from Grayling: “How very dare they!!!! Those journalists writing original stories of public interest on FoI data, rather than just recycling officially sanctioned Press releases! Next they’ll be using the free-to-access National Archives / official document / Gov statistical releases to generate “news”. All while being able to accept phone calls from people who have tips for them. This can’t go on. ”

    (Next week from Grayling: “Those journalists writing news reports, based on totally free anonymous Westminster briefings. How very dare they get this free service from government…….unfettered access to the opposition too, without a govt minder present. Talking to the great unwashed public too.)

    (Two weeks time from Grayling: “Those journalists – writing anything they like before having permission from the Police, and before weeks of Maxwellisation.)

  4. AndyH

    New Labour did three good things – the Freedom of Information Act, working tax credits and the minimum wage – it’s a pity they have failed to defend any of these policies.

  5. jamesakirkcaldy

    I think what I find so asinine about Grayling’s position is that the role of the media in a liberal democracy is to untangle the rhetorical knots that politicians thus do tie, to inform and to initiate debate, to investigate and to hold to account.

    Grayling has perhaps not heard about he ‘division of labour’ and that journalists specialise in such tasks, given that most of us just do not have the available use time to untangle all those sticky knots.

    When we look at the relationship between the state and citizen with respects to how much transparency each has relative to each other, it is clear that their big Eye does not wish our compound eye to gain any purchase on precisely what goes on behind the scenes.

    Indeed, the suggested changes to FOI requests and making them beyond the reach of most people shouldbe seen alongside the State’s big data projects and digital panoptic systems, and here the State wishes to know us completely.

    Imbalances here and this very relationship of the relative penetration of the gaze is two way and is pretty much a definitive comment, on whether a given State is indeed democratic or not, their big eye penetrates quite deep at the moment and ours not so much but with the prospect of FOI requests being neutered we run the risk of perhaps losing the last of our mechanisms that allow us to say we live in a society that aims towards realising its liberal democratic ideals.

    I am careful with this last sentence because whilst I think those ideals characterise British values, I do not think we have ever had a political system that can honestly be called democratic.

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