National Journalism Organization Blasts AG Jeff Landry, Gives Dubious "Black Hole" Award
The award is given to government officials or institutions for "acts of outright contempt of the public’s right to know."
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0
The Society of Professional Journalists announced this week that it is giving its annual Black Hole Award to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. According to the SPJ website, the Black Hole Award highlights “the most heinous violations of the public’s right to know.”
“By exposing such abuses, SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee seeks to educate the public about their rights and call attention to those who would interfere with openness and transparency.”
The SPJ chose Landry after he attempted to block a Louisiana Freedom of Information Act request and filed a lawsuit against the reporter who submitted it. New Orleans Advocate|Times-Picayune reporter Andrea Gallo had filed requests for copies of sexual harassment complaints against Pat Magee, the head of the Louisiana Department of Justice’s criminal division. Originally, Landry’s office attempted to stonewall Gallo, saying the files were part of an “ongoing investigation.” However, Landry then filed a lawsuit against Gallo, claiming that her request “will compromise the rights of our employees and could lead to litigation over the violation of those rights.”
“This was an egregious attempt to not only intimidate a reporter but to intimidate all future FOIA requesters with fear of legal action for simply trying to learn what is happening inside their government,” SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Chair Haisten Willis said. “Open - truly open - records are crucial to maintaining our fragile democracy, and all citizens benefit from transparency in government. Attempting to bully someone out of holding government officials accountable has earned the Louisiana attorney general a well-deserved Black Hole Award.”
Nominations for the Black Hole Award come from journalists, advocates for open government, and the general public. Previous recipients include former President Donald Trump and his administration, the Connecticut State Police, the U.S. Virgin Islands Government, and Oklahoma State University.