Statement: Caleb Chafee Supreme Court decision
Our statement on today's Decision by the Rhode Island Supreme Court:
The Rhode Island Press Association strongly disagrees with the decision rendered today by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in regard to The Providence Journal's request for public records in the investigation of Caleb Chafee.
Not only does today's decision further erode the idea of transparency in Rhode Island state government, it sets a dangerous precedent moving forward by hampering the ability of journalists throughout our state to do the bare basics of their job.
This ruling strikes a large blow to the public's right to know what its government is doing, how its law enforcement agencies are run and what, if any, special treatment select individuals receive when accused of committing a crime.
In addition, this decision has created a new standard that requires those seeking public records to prove that a government impropriety exists before being granted access to the records they would need to do so.
This conclusion, if applied as liberally as we expect it to be, will tip the scales between an individual's right to privacy and the public's right to know in a drastic way that all but derails the basic foundations journalism has been built on: Gather the evidence, find the results and report the conclusions.
It is our hope that this ruling does not become an unchecked tool by government agencies keen on further limiting the public's legitimate right to public records. Further, we hope future revisions to the APRA account for today's decision and reinstate actual balance in the balancing between an individual's right to privacy and the public's right to know that the law was intended to create.
-The Rhode Island Press Association