The Independent, Daily Mail, Guardian, NUJ and the Society of Editors are among a number of groups that have signed a letter urging Prime Minister David Cameron to scrap proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Act.
Led by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, media voices have raised concerns about possible new cost limits which could be introduced under changes.
“Many requests of substantial public interest would be refused under these proposals regardless of the benefits of disclosure,” the letter stated. “They would have a severe effect on the operation of the FOI Act.”
It added: “We find it difficult to reconcile your ambition that the UK should be the world leader in openness with the government’s proposals to restrict the FOI Act, which is a critical element of the UK’s openness arrangements.”
The government introduced plans to change the FoI Act in November 2012. Under the proposed changes, alterations could be made to the length of time a public body has to consider FoI requests and how many requests can be made by groups/individuals who submit regular requests for information, leading to fears that journalists’ work would be impeded.
Existing cost restrictions means that a request likely to incur a cost more than £600 at central government level to find the information, or £450 for local authorities, can be rejected.
The letter to David Cameron has been signed by 76 organisations, including the British Institute of Human Rights, Big Brother Watch, Liberty, the Law Society Gazette, Press Gazette and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, while an Early Day Motion calling on the government to scrap the plans has received 77 MPs’ signatures.