The Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") gives the right to request access to government records to any person for any reason, whether the person is a U.S. citizen or a foreign national. Requests can be made in the name of an individual or an organization (including a corporation, partnership, or public interest group). Individuals have the same access rights as professional journalists, though journalists who work for established media organizations sometimes receive better treatment from records-keepers. Individuals probably won’t qualify for some of the perks afforded to media professionals, such as fee waivers and expedited processing, but they are just as capable of using records requests to reveal information that is important to the public. In fact, according to one study, more FOIA requests come from ordinary citizens than from professional media organizations.
Filing a request under FOIA may seem daunting at first, and it often is not easy to figure out how and where to get the information you seek. However, this legal guide should help you navigate FOIA so you can gather valuable government information that you can use to inform your fellow citizens and the world at large.