FOIA protects press and public's access to information on retailer revenue from SNAP, Reporters Committee argues

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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is supporting Argus Leader Media in its fight for public access to information about how much revenue retailers earn from the federal nutrition assistance program, SNAP.

The decision in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media will bring to the U.S. Supreme Court a question about Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act. Exemption 4 is typically used by agencies to prevent the release of trade secrets and confidential business information. The court's decision will determine whether agencies can withhold from the public information that businesses have submitted to the government by claiming that the information has been otherwise kept private, or if the exemption only applies when substantial harm to a business's competitive interest would occur from releasing the information.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed March 25, the Reporters Committee and a coalition of 36 media organizations argued that the public has a right to access information on the government's spending and interactions with private parties under FOIA.

"FOIA is a powerful tool used by journalists, news organizations, and the public to monitor how the government spends tax dollars," the Reporters Committee stated in the brief. "For example, journalists have used SNAP data to determine which private companies obtain the greatest benefits from government subsidies. Similar records also allow the public to understand which companies the government selects for lucrative contracts."

Read more from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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