Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, COMMUNICATION (oxfordre.com/communication). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 29 October 2020

U.S. Freedom of Information Act and Democratic Accountabilitylocked

  • Michael SchudsonMichael SchudsonSchool of Journalism, Columbia University

Summary

In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Congress, with allies in the news media, created legislation that came to be known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was designed to help hold the federal executive accountable to the public. It became law in 1966. Its significance can be understood in several contexts: (1) in connection with a special relationship of journalists to the operation of the FOIA; (2) in terms of arguments that transparency in government is necessary for citizens’ informed participation in democracy and that, on the other side, there are strong democratic arguments that transparency should be limited in the pursuit of other legitimate values, some of them recognized in the language of the FOIA itself that government agencies may deny a citizen's request for information on the grounds that honoring the request could endanger national security, personal privacy, the integrity of internal government deliberations, or other significant objectives; and (3) that freedom of information law are one institution within a wider web of institutions and practices dedicated to holding government accountable. In this regard, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act can also be seen in a broad context of a cultural shift toward “openness” and a political shift toward what has been called a “monitory” model of democracy.

Subjects

  • Communication Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Communication Studies

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription