PEN America and Allies File Court Brief Demanding Information on Visa Applicant’s Denial
Case would be first opportunity for DC Circuit Court to put boundaries on what information the government is permitted to withhold
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY)–Alongside a coalition of media freedom organizations, PEN America this week filed a friend of the court brief supporting the principals undergirding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and government transparency. The filing urges the court to uphold the foreseeable harm standard—a provision expressly prohibiting government agencies from withholding information that falls within the scope of one of FOIA’s exemptions.
The coalition filed an amicus brief in the DC Circuit Court Tuesday on behalf of Juan Luciano Machado Amadis, a Dominican citizen who was denied entry to the U.S., filed a FOIA request for more information, and was repeated denied by the U.S. State Department. The case represents the DC Circuit’s first opportunity to hear a case regarding the freedom of information “foreseeable harm” provision, which prohibits government agencies from withholding certain information.
“This case comes at a critical time in the fight for government accountability,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. Free Expression Programs. “Piece by piece, we are witnessing the federal government take steps to limit public access to information–for both the public and the press–from efforts to change the EPA’s FOIA regulations to eliminating research and entire sections of federal websites. As these steps to limit public access play out, we urge the Court to carefully construct any ruling on the foreseeable harm standard to underscore the importance of government transparency and not undo commitments in the rule of law to these tenets.”
In the brief, PEN America and its allies seek to provide the court with information about the legislative history and significance of FOIA to the public and to press freedom, as well as the purpose of the foreseeable harm standard, expressing the view that any new interpretation of the provision should promote transparency. It also calls on the court to affirm core tenets of the 1967 law, which was created with the intention of holding the government accountable and supporting an informed citizenry.
PEN has a history of fighting for strong freedom of information access for the public and members of the media. In January, PEN America joined a coalition in filing an amicus brief in support of the rights of the public and press to have accessible and affordable access to court records. PEN America also advocates with local partners to stand behind efforts to protect FOIA laws. This summer, the organization offered in partnership with South Side Weekly a series of workshops for journalists on how to file FOIA requests and how these requests can support their reporting.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892