UF Freedom of Information Center honors AP writer

December 21, 2006

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information Center recently honored an Associated Press series on the treatment and prosecution of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Paisley Dodds expose revealed psychological pressures and harsh conditions for many of the more than 500 terrorist suspects.

“This series demonstrates the importance of a vigilant media and its role as the public’s watchdog in monitoring and revealing government activities,” said Sandra Chance, the executive director of the center, which is based in UF’s College of Journalism and Communications.

The U.S. government released to the AP nearly 3,000 pages of documents under a Freedom of Information lawsuit. The documents – with names and city, village and country names redacted – account for nearly 100 testimonies at secretive tribunal proceedings where detainees complained there was no evidence against them and alleged abuse at the prison camp. The series also found that detainees were coerced into confessions and were subjected to female interrogators using sexual tactics to weaken Muslim detainees.

“As our elected officials make more decisions about governmental operations in secret,” Chance said, “the public depends on the media to help us hold our governmental officials accountable and protect against government corruption and abuse at all levels.”

The late Joseph L. Brechner, an Orlando broadcaster, established the award, which includes $3,000. Previous winners include the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, The St. Petersburg Times, The Dallas Morning News and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The center educates and promotes freedom of information laws and policies.

It serves students, citizens, media lawyers and journalists around the country by providing training sessions, answering queries and conducting scholarly research on First Amendment issues.