Arkansas citizens can photograph public documents under FOIA
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Citizens who request access to public documents under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act now have the right to take a picture of the documents using their cellphones, the Arkansas Court of Appeals ruled.
The appellate court sided with Little Rock attorney Ben Motal against the city in a 5-1 decision, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Motal said the Little Rock Police Department prohibited him from photographing records related to a hit-and-run accident in which he said he was the victim. While the police allowed him to review the accident report and offered to make him a copy for $10, they would not allow him to take a picture of the report with his phone.
Motal argued that violated the Freedom of Information law, which states public records “shall be open to inspection and copying by any citizen” of Arkansas.
“My understanding of the law was always as it was interpreted in the decision: that copying included taking pictures with a smartphone and your own device,” Motal said in a brief interview after the court’s decision.
In legal briefs, attorneys for the city argued that the definition of “copying” in the law does not extend to taking pictures, and that Motal’s lawsuit was moot because the city later gave him a free copy of the report after he filed suit.
Little Rock City Attorney Thomas Carpenter said Wednesday that the appellate court’s ruling was a “legislative decision,” and that he would ask the city’s Board of Directors to appeal the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court.