CCFOI asks legislature to tread carefully before limiting public access to Newtown documents

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, the advocate for transparent government in Connecticut, is asking the legislature to tread carefully before limiting public access to documents related to the tragedy in Newtown last year.

Read their letter to learn more about their concerns:
The Honorable Governor Dannel P. Malloy
Office of the Governor
State Capitol Building
210 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Governor Malloy,

The undersigned here believe the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 is one of the saddest days in this nation’s rich history.  The senseless murder of 27 innocent people, 20 of whom were children, is an unspeakable act of horror that will forever scar the hearts of our state and our nation.

In the wake of this tragedy, we are all seeking information that will help us understand how and why it occurred, so that we can take steps to ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again.  We understand the process of gathering information may have the unfortunate and unintended effect of reminding families and friends of the Sandy Hook victims of their terrible loss.  All agree that every reasonable step should be taken to minimize such painful reminders, while not depriving our local, state and federal governments – and the people in general – of information needed to assess the tragedy and develop appropriate legislative responses.

It’s with this in mind that we, the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association (CDNA), the Connecticut Broadcasters Association (CBA), and the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information (CCFOI) caution the Administration and the Legislature on a response that would restrict public access to information about what happened at Sandy Hook, or other crimes, regardless of scope, moving forward.

While many tragic events have made us question whether the disclosure of information is always in the best interest of a society, history has demonstrated repeatedly that governments must favor disclosure.  Only an informed society can make informed judgments on issues of great moment.

We believe, as the American Society of Newspaper Editors Ethics Code states, “…that journalists should respect the rights of people involved in the news, observe the common standards of decency and stand accountable to the public for the fairness and accuracy of news reports…the primary purpose of gathering and distributing news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of the time.”

Knowing this, we for the benefit of open government and a free press, caution the government of the Great State of Connecticut as it deliberates changes to the Freedom of Information Act in response to the tragedy of Newtown.   We maintain that public access to investigative reports, 9-1-1 Emergency Call transcripts and recordings, death certificates, and the like, serve the public’s best interest by permitting the public to monitor the performance of its government. It was in this spirit that the First Amendment itself was adopted.

We look forward to discussing this issue with you as the Session comes to a close, and wish you the best in your delineation’s on these very important matters.


Michael Schroeder
Connecticut Daily Newspaper’s Association

Michael Ryan
Connecticut Broadcasters Association

Jim Smith
Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information

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