The Associated Press Named 27th Annual Brechner Award Winner

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –The Associated Press has been named the winner of the 27th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award for its ground-breaking investigative series, “Access Denied,” which tested the right-to-information laws in the more than 100 counties that have them.
“This series highlighted the importance of access to government information in a democracy and the ability of people around the world to hold their governmental officials accountable, expose government corruption, abuse, illegal, and sometimes, criminal activities,” Sandra F. Chance, executive director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, said.
UF College of Journalism and Communications Dean Diane McFarlin presented the $3,000 prize to The AP’s national reporter Martha Mendoza at an awards ceremony on April 9, 2013, in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.
The AP’s strong investigative reporting revealed shocking results, including the fact that the governments of Mexico and Guatemala released more information than the United States,” Chance said. “This is the kind of reporting that reminds us that the laws are only as effective as the government’s commitment to openness and transparency, and how important a free press is in guarding against government wrongdoing.” Right-to-know laws have spread rapidly over the past decade and, on paper, present a powerful way to engage citizens and expose corruption.  The AP sent 120 reporters to test the promise of open government laws in 100 countries, many with new laws. Unfortunately, according to the series, more than half the countries do not follow them and even when some countries do follow the law, “the information is at best useless, and at worst, deadly.

The Annual award was established by the late Joseph L. Brechner, an Orlando broadcaster. Previous award winners included: The San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The St. Petersburg Times, The Dallas Morning News, the Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), the Houston Chronicle.

The Brechner Center exists to educate and promote freedom of information laws and policies. It serves the students of UF, Florida citizens, media lawyers and journalists around the country by providing training sessions, answering queries and conducting scholarly research on First Amendment issues.