#IndexAwards2018: MuckRock advocates for government transparency

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/fW_rl97IupM”][vc_column_text]MuckRock is a non-profit, collaborative news site used by journalists, activists and members of the public to request, receive and share government documents from any agency that is subject to transparency laws in the United States. Their aim is to make policies more open to the public, and democracies further informed.2018 Freedom of Expression Awards link

“MuckRock has continued to double in size each year,” said MuckRock. “We hope to continue increasing our impact, putting cutting edge transparency tools in the hands of journalists, whistleblowers, researchers and ordinary people to have impact at the national, international, and local levels.”

The site, which has a user base of 10,000, hosts an archive filled with hundreds of thousands of pages of original government materials, as well as information about how to file requests, and tools to make the requesting process easier. MuckRock has filed over 40, 000 requests, shedding light on government surveillance, censorship and police militarisation among hundreds of other issues. The site’s staff and contributors use the documents received through the site to create original investigative reporting and analysis.

MuckRock filed and won a lawsuit against the CIA, which resulted in the release of 13 million pages of previously secret documents from the CREST Database – the CIA’s database of declassified information dating back through the Cold War. The foundation also fought off a lawsuit from multinationals seeking to hide security flaws in their smart metering technology.

Their work investigating the US government’s 1033 programme, which supplied local police and the private prison system with military equipment, helped lead to major reforms of these policies.

Stories that MuckRock have reported on over the past year include: gaps in gun violence data, surveillance footage from the top of the Smithsonian building on inauguration day – contributing to the debate of the true crowd size, and classified CIA documents that were left stashed in the Rockefellers barn.

After he had been in office for over a year, MuckRock investigated the effects of president Trump’s harsher immigration policies, and found that the number of deportations was actually decreasing, while the number of people held in detention centres was rising.

The site has had a particularly successful 2017, seeing its 10,000th public records request successfully completed. They also celebrated International Right To Know day by expanding their reach to Canada, which is ranked a lowly 49th out of 111 countries on the RTI Rating.

The site has also focused on expanding its education about requesting documents, and produced a Freedom of Information Act 4 Kidz lesson plan to help educators to start discussions about government transparency.

It’s impossible to quantify the impact of this acknowledgement of our amazing transparency community,” said MuckRock. “This nomination recognizes the important work of all the MuckRock users who have fought to open up government on so many issues, often facing bureaucratic hurdles and legal threats to create a strong civic society for all.”

See the full shortlist for Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards 2018 here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” equal_height=”yes” el_class=”text_white” css=”.vc_custom_1490258749071{background-color: #cb3000 !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Support the Index Fellowship.” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:28|text_align:center” use_theme_fonts=”yes” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indexoncensorship.org%2Fsupport-the-freedom-of-expression-awards%2F|||”][vc_column_text]

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Government agrees not to request Leveson evidence redactions

Cross-posted with Full Fact

The Cabinet agreed yesterday that Ministers will not exercise the right to request redactions of evidence submitted to the Leveson inquiry.

Yesterday Full FactEnglish PEN, Index and the Media Standards Trust made an urgent application to the Leveson Inquiry for transparency regarding Government ministers’ new status as ‘core participants’ in the Inquiry.

We asked for transparency over access to confidential Inquiry material and government redaction requests, and to keep politically-appointed Special Advisers out of the process.

A few hours later a spokesman for No 10 told the Times: “We will not be making any requests to redact material.” He said the decision not to seek redactions applied to the whole of the Government, not only No 10.

The application was considered this morning by Lord Justice Leveson and he decided not to make the directions we asked for. We will be studying his reasons when the transcript is available.

However, he did emphasise his respect for Full Fact and the other applicants and his willingness to publicise attempted abuses of the redactions process by core participants. He also reemphasised his commitment to transparency.

Full Fact shares his view that transparency is vital to trust in the Inquiry’s eventual recommendations and are pleased to have played our part in enabling these significant issues to be fully considered in public.

Our focus now returns to helping to make sure the Inquiry produces the best possible recommendations for the future of press regulation and relations between politicians and the press.

William Moy is a director of Full Fact

Government to apply for core participant status at Leveson Inquiry

Update 15:21 — Eight government ministers have today been granted core participant status at the Leveson Inquiry, meaning they will have advance access to evidence and the right to seek redactions of other statements submitted. Lord Justice Leveson rejected the application by the government as a body, but granted individual CP status to David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Ken Clarke, George Osborne, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove, who will be known as “government core participants“.

The coalition government will this afternoon make an application to be a core participant at the Leveson Inquiry, in a special hearing announced today.

If granted, this would mean that the government would have advance access to written statements and attachments submitted in module three of the Inquiry, which is examining relations between the press and politicians.

The Inquiry states that individual or an organisation can become a core participant if they are deemed by Lord Justice Leveson to meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • the person played, or may have played, a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the inquiry relates;
  • the person has a significant interest in an important aspect of those matters to which the inquiry relates; or
  • the person may be subject to explicit or significant criticism during the inquiry proceedings or in its report

Those already granted CP status in module three include Guardian News and Media, Associated Newspapers and News International; the Metropolitan police; the National Union of Journalists, and former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, who is scheduled to give evidence to the Inquiry next Friday. MPs including Tom Watson, Denis MacShane, Tessa Jowell and Chris Bryant have also been granted CP status.

Today’s hearing is scheduled to take place at 2pm.

Follow Index on Censorship’s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry on Twitter – @IndexLeveson