Eastern Daily Press: It's our duty to fight FoI curbs

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Assistant editor on the Eastern Daily Press Paul Durrant believes every regional newspaper editor has a duty to get their local MPs to oppose the Government’s proposals to curb the Act.

He said: “With the combined clout of the regional media, we should be able to get 400 MPs on our side, sign an EDM and show parliamentary support. “The regional press has a great relationship with their MPs and need to write to and lobby their own MPs.

“The Eastern Daily Press has used FoI time and again to uncover stories that otherwise would have been left untold. It’s a system which is working for us. Hiding behind the new cost regulations would severely curtail what we believe is an important principle of openness and transparency.

“I’ve tried to encourage all our journalists to use the Act as an important part of our armoury. We have a standard letter that can be adapted for all types of requests which highlights the importance of the public interest test. We have used it successfully on numerous occasions.

“We submit around two requests a month at the moment and they are not frivolous requests. We are not serial abusers of the system — I don’t think there are many serial abusers in the industry. You’ve always got, in editor’s letters terms, the green ink brigade, who probably are the serial abusers and the Government perhaps should be addressing them.

“But there should not be a system where bona fide journalists are restricted to a quota system. There may be some months where we have no requests but we may have other months where we have half a dozen key issues that need pursuing.

“If that makes us a serial user or abuser, then that’s tough.” The EDP used FoI to produced figures that showed more than 1,600 suspected criminals had jumped bail in East Anglia, 100 of them Category A prisoners. A separate request showed there were 4,500 incidents in which police were called to schools in East Anglia last year, sometimes up to 12 times a day. It led to calls for better security at school gates in the region.

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