Open Government Canada applauds Canadian journalists honoured in U.S. for access to information stories

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TORONTO, April 5 /CNW/ - Open Government Canada applauds the success of Canadian journalists who accounted for two of the six finalists for the Freedom of Information (FOI) Award of the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) 2000 awards.

"This is an impressive recognition of Canadian journalists in a single category of such prestigious awards," said Jane Dyson, co-chair of Open Government Canada's Steering Committee. "It's a testament to the perseverance and imagination of Canadian reporters using the country's access to information laws."

Investigative journalist Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star and a five- member team from the St. John's Telegram were finalists for the 2000 FOI Award of the U.S.Investigative Reporters and Editors contest.

Cribb's "Dirty Dining" series used Ontario's Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to obtain restaurant inspection reports from Toronto's public health department. The resulting series informed the public for the first time of just how lax the inspection of the city's restaurants had been and of the health risks that could result.

The stories sparked a major overhaul to Toronto's food-inspection system including posting inspection results on the Internet and in eatery windows.

The St. John's Telegram focused its investigation on Newfoundland's Freedom of Information Act itself. The resulting three part series, "Access Denied", detailed the sorry state of the legislation. Team members recognized are Tracy Barron, Ryan Cleary, Barbara Sweet, Russell Wangersky and Robert Mills. Full text of this series can be found on the OGC website.

"Open Government Canada hopes such high-profile recognition of the hard work done by the Telegram's journalists in exposing the weakness of their province's FOI law encourages other media outlets to do similar work," said Dyson.

The FOI Award winner was Melissa Turner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for her in-depth series "Inside the '96 Olympics". Turner's story was only possible after she won a lengthy fight with the Atlanta Olympics Organizing Committee over its internal documents.

The only other Canadian finalists in the IRE awards were in the radio category. CBC Radio's Kelly Ryan, Margaret McGee and Sandra Bartlett were recognized for "Lethal Legacy", an expose of the effect of depleted uranium on Canadian veterans of the Gulf War and the conflict in Kosovo.

Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc (www.ire.org), a non-profit organization formed in 1975, employs a peer-review system to screen entries for the annual IRE Awards. Categories include newspapers, television, magazines, books, radio, freedom of information and student work. The awards have long been dominated by American media.

See a list of all award winners and finalists.

Open Government Canada (www.opengovernmentcanada.org), founded in 2000, is a coalition of librarians, researchers, journalists and media lawyers united in improving public access to information held by governments at all levels.

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For further information: Contact: Jane Dyson, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, Co-Chair, Open Government Canada steering committee, (604) 872-1278

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