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Got Examples Of Government Blocking Access To Public Info? New Survey Wants To Know

Willow Belden

A new survey released last week by several journalism advocate groups is asking people to send in examples of how government agencies may have blocked their access to public officials or data. 

Michael Morisy is the founder of Muck Rock, a group working on the "Access Denied" Project. He says, in recent years, government agencies have started requiring that reporters submit their questions in writing or talk to a spokesperson, rather than directly to an official.

“Some of the things we’ve seen over the past few years is that government agencies are becoming increasingly sophisticated when it comes to managing their public image,” Morisy says. “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing except when it conflicts with the public’s right to know what’s going on with their tax dollars.”

Morisy says Wyoming’s new law passed this year that makes data collection across private property illegal is an example of how some government agencies are turning to creative approaches to limiting media access. Supporters of the law disagree, saying it protects land owners by forcing researchers to be aware of whether they're trespassing to collect their data. The law was challenged in court by environmental and media groups. A federal judge will make a ruling on the case in coming days.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.

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