A Times investigation revealed on Saturday that the Ministry of Justice has been tracking journalists who make information requests. In the UK, the right to request and access recorded information held by public authorities is protected under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. By law, UK public authorities must respond to any requests for information. According to the Times’ report, a Times reporter made a subject access request and discovered the documents of background profiles on journalists that make freedom of information requests, which was compiled by Ministry of Justice officials.The report details evidence that there is an apparent delay of the release of data ‘until clearance is given by political appointees’. Press officers and Conservative political appointees have been given the power to influence whether disclosures can be made, according to emails obtained in the investigation. Background notes are also made on reporters. Among these reporters is George Greenwood, a reporter for the Times who last year revealed a secretive Whitehall ‘clearing house’ which screens information requests was sharing the personal details of journalists accessing information under the FOIA.Freedom of information experts in a panel with OpenDemocracy discussed the importance that the FOIA has in exposing corruption within the country. However, experts Claire Miller and Martin Rosenbaum stated that the UK government is ‘giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly’. Rosenbaum also gave comments to the Times, and says the measures used by the Ministry are objectionable and not in compliance with the law. He says that ‘compiling background notes on requesters is a misuse of government resources and enables political influence … which should not affect the freedom of information process’.Big Brother Watch has recently drawn attention to similar issues surrounding freedom of information and freedom of speech, with an investigation revealing ‘secretive UK government disinformation units’ dubbed ‘the ministry of truth’. It is alleged this unit spy on political dissents and surpress free speech online. Lord Clark, the leading author of the FOIA, made a call for a parliamentary review after ‘serious data breaches by police forces in responses to FOI requests’.The Times report suggests that the underfunding of the Information Commissioner’s Office may be a reason for the alarming treatment of FOI rights, as it is tasked with holding the government office accountable. It concludes with a call to action for stronger public scrutiny.

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