In a new twist to the game of avoiding the release of public records, a US journalist has been sued by the state Attorney General for merely filing a Freedom of Information request.
A Louisiana journalist at The Advocate and The Times-Picayune Andrea Gallo filed a public records request in December 14 last year with the state’s Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Gallo had sought records of sexual harassment complaints against Pat Magee who headed the criminal division in Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office and been placed on administrative leave that day pending an investigation into the complaints.
At the time, Landry’s office said the documents would be made available once the investigation was over but failed to do so when Magee retuned to work on January 19 after being found to have acted inappropriately and ordered to take a USD 20,559 pay cut.
Three days later Landry’s office promised to release the documents within a week but changed their tune soon after and said they would not be released due to privacy concerns and confidentiality policies specific to the attorney general’s office.
The newspaper followed up with an agreement to accept redaction in the documents but a promise to pursue legal avenues if they were not released, sparking the strong-arm attack from Landry’s legal team a few days later.
Real Press are not aware of a previous case of a journalist sued for an FOI request and share the profession’s concerns that this case could set a dangerous precedent for press freedom to report public matters.
The newspaper has responded with a non-profit fund to defend press freedom and support investigations that “hold public officials and other powerful institutions accountable to the state’s citizenry.”