January 29 – February 6, 2009 Edition

Publishers Cheer Obama’s
Actions to Release
Government Records

WASHINGTON, DC/1/23/09- The Association of American Publishers (AAP) applauded actions taken by President Barack Obama on his first full day in office that will greatly strengthen the ability of authors and journalists to shed light on the government’s actions and hold them up to public view.

In a stunning repudiation of the Bush Administration policies of stealth and secrecy, President Obama issued a directive to all departments and agencies within the Executive Branch to administer the Freedom of Information Act with a clear presumption, with respect to the release of government records, that “in the face of doubt, openness prevails.” The Obama memorandum, released on January 21, 2009, nullifies the memorandum issued by former Attorney General John Ashcroft encouraging government agencies to stonewall FOIA requests.

President Obama also issued an Executive Order overturning the Bush Executive Order limiting access to presidential records. Executive Order 13,233 issued in November 2001 gave incumbent and former presidents, vice presidents, and even members of their families veto power over the release of presidential papers, essentially overturning the Presidential Records Act, which was enacted in response to abuses of the Nixon Administration and which clearly established permanent public ownership and control of presidential papers. The publishing industry was strongly opposed to the Bush Executive Order from the outset and AAP took the lead on an amicus brief in an unsuccessful legal challenge.

“Whatever else this Administration accomplishes, history already owes President Obama a debt of gratitude for restoring the integrity of the Presidential Records Act,” said Judith Platt, who directs AAP’s Freedom to Read program. “The PRA and the Freedom of Information Act, vital tools for journalists and authors, have been undermined and treated with contempt for eight years. We’re delighted to see them made whole again.”

The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP’s approximately 300 members include most of the major commercial book publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies. AAP members publish hardcover and paperback books in every field, educational materials for the elementary, secondary, post-secondary and professional markets, scholarly journals, computer software and electronic products and services. The Association represents an industry whose very existence depends upon the free exercise of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.