Thursday, January 05, 2006

Xmas and New Year media update

A selection of the key stories over the holiday period:

National News

The Guardian - MoD cites asbestos fear in rejecting information pleas
"Thousands of the government's most sensitive secret documents are being held back from publication under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that they may be contaminated by asbestos."

The Guardian - Revealed: from nuclear tip plans to Blair's 'barmy' Simpsons star turn
"A brief guide to some of the official facts disclosed in the Freedom of Information Act's first year."

The Guardian - Lord Falconer - It's not about toilet paper
"Freedom of information was introduced to give power to the people, not to satisfy journalists' feverish curiosity."

The Guardian - For your information
"With the Freedom of Information Act now a year old, Rob Evans assesses the government's reaction to the new spirit of openness. And here he looks at some of the more bizarre requests made by the public."

The Guardian - Ask a silly question
"Freedom of information is commonly thought to be about important matters of state, but some people evidently had other things on their mind."

The Guardian (letters) - Princess Diana and restrictions on FOI
"What puzzles me, though, is what he or the author of your news story finds "irresponsible" about our request for information about the government's response to Princess Diana's death."

Sunday Times (comment) - Foreign Office threatened Meyer with visit from the heavy mob
"Jay, Meyer recalls, even threatened him with the FO’s hitman Jack Straw. “You called me to say that people ‘over the road’, as well as Jack Straw and Patricia Hewitt, were concerned about things that I had said or been reported to have said,” correspondence from Jay obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals. “You added that I should myself be concerned to have disturbed such major figures. Jack Straw might even call me.”" - BUSINESSES wary of new regime's risks
"A year after the Freedom of Information Act took effect, businesses
remain concerned about the risks of commercially sensitive information
being disclosed (reg req.)

Daily Telegraph - Falconer plans information curbs
"The Freedom of Information Act could be tightened under government plans to reduce the number of "frivolous" and "irresponsible" inquiries, the Lord Chancellor said yesterday."

Daily Telegraph - Fury grows over firm's failure to withdraw deadly pacemakers
"There is growing outrage that British heart patients were given pacemakers with a potentially deadly defect, long after the manufacturer became aware of the problem. More than 500 people in Britain were fitted with the device, which could fail at any time, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act."

"A sinister photograph, published for the first time, shows a 12-year-old girl who survived the evil reign of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley...The picture is one of a series just released under the Freedom of Information Act....After Hindley and Brady were convicted, the photos, witness statements and other documentary notes were transferred to the National Archives in London."
Specialist press

The Register - Undelete those deleted emails, FOIA ruling tells Government
"'Deleted' Government records needn't necessarily be treated as deleted after all, according to a ruling by the Information Tribunal, which deals with appeals against rulings under the Freedom of Information Act. But don't get too excited - although in theory this means that data that can be undeleted, restored from backups or reconstructed by specialists can still be supplied in response to FOIA requests, in practice the whole show will still collapse when it encounters the haphazard shambles that UK Government backup regimes amount to."

Egov monitor- Higher Education meets the challenges of the public's right to know
"The Higher Education sector has responded both positively and successfully to the first year of the Freedom of Information Act, survey results published to mark the Act's first anniversary reveal. The survey, a joint initiative by JISC, Universities UK and SCOP (the Standing Conference of Principals), show that the overwhelming majority of the requests being received by institutions are being answered fully, on time and free of charge."

Irish Medical times - Women travelling to give birth in Britain
"A BBC investigation has found a growing number of women from overseas are travelling to Britain to give birth in NHS hospitals, a practise that is costing some trusts hundreds of thousands of pounds a year."

Local News

News and Star (Cumbria) - 500 police officers hurt in thug attacks
"Figures obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act also reveal more than 2,200 various injuries have been suffered by officers and force civilian staff during the same period."

Shrophsire Star - County drivers flouting car phone law
"New figures released to the Shropshire Star under the Freedom of Information Act show that nearly 6,000 people in the West Mercia police force area have been fined for using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel since it became an offence two years ago."

Western Mail - Will Euro aid work this time?
"SENIOR Plaid Cymru politicians are demanding to know whether the Assembly Government is pressing Gordon Brown to provide all the funds necessary to make Wales' second round of top-level European aid a success....Material released to the Western Mail earlier this year in line with the Freedom of Information Act showed Alun Michael, the Assembly's first leader, had pleaded in vain for match funding to be provided by the Treasury."

South Wales Echo - The truth about the Beeb's workforce
"BBC Wales' workforce has rocketed to more than 1,360 - 28 per cent more than before devolution. Back in May 1999, when the National Assembly was set up, the number of employees stood at 1,058. But six years on, the size of the workfoce has grown rapidly to 1,362, according to figures released to the Echo under the Freedom of Information Act."

BBC Wales - Freedom culture change 'needed'
"A year since the Freedom of Information Act became law, one of Wales' chief watchdogs says there is still a long way to go to achieve more openness."

Manchester Evening News - Council minorities 'more likely to be sacked'
"ETHNIC minority council workers in Manchester are more likely to be sacked or suspended than their white counterparts, figures reveal."


New Zimbabwe - British officials feared Mugabe backlash over wife's treatment
"BRITISH government officials feared a refusal to grant residency to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's late wife, Sally, would harden his policy towards Britain in an independent Zimbabwe."

Oped news - Bush Administration Refuses to Comply With FOIA Request on Pre-War Intelligence

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