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Synopsis: Live Panel – Zoom
Scheduled:
July 27, 2021
10:00 AM EST

Zoom Link (click on the title of the panel below to go to the live panel):

The Perils of PIO: Free Speech and Plublic Information Officers

While the Office is not authorized to receive whistleblower disclosures, this session will also explore the Office’s publicly available resources that aim to facilitate safe and effective communications between whistleblowers and Congress, as well as other tools that may be of value to the whistleblower stakeholder community.

Sponsored by the D.C. Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists: Over 20-30 years, it’s become a cultural norm for various entities, public and private, to prohibit staff from communicating with reporters without oversight by authorities, often through public information officers.

The basic part of this is quite fearsome: prohibition against any contact without notifying authorities. However, the rules also create a chokepoint severely limiting the number of contacts. They are also used to deliberately block unwanted contacts and constrain what can be said.

This hampers whistleblowing by massively reducing reporters’ ability to get to know and be educated by staff; have staff come to trust them; and have confidential conversations. The Society of Professional Journalists has said it believes secrecy caused by these controls led to significantly higher COVID-19 death toll. An analysis by First Amendment attorney Frank LoMonte says the restrictions are unconstitutional and many courts have said so.

Panelists:
Kathyrn Foxhall (Moderator)
Frank LoMonte
Haisten Willis

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