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SPJ Seeks Delay in Vote on Restricting Newtown Victims' Records

The Society of Professional Journalists has asked the Connecticut state legislature to delay a vote on a bill to restrict outside access to government records on the Sandy Hook school shooting. The vote could reportedly come as early as this week.

SPJ was responding to a story in the Hartford Courant that said the governor was working with lawmakers on a draft bill to restrict access to phone calls, tapes and death certificates to anyone but the victims who survived and members of the immediate family, an obstacle to journalists covering the story.

"The Society condemns the creation of this legislation outside the normal, transparent process of public hearings and debate," wrote SPJ national president Sonny Albarado and SPJ Connecticut president Jodie Mozdzer Gil, who tag-teamed on the letter to Governor Dannel Malloy. "And we deplore the attempt to use the tragic events of Dec. 14 as an excuse to close off access to records that are otherwise available to the public."

According to the Courant, the bill could wind up expanding that restriction beyond records of simply the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.

"We also urge legislators to defeat any bill that would close off documents - such as death certificates, emergency 911 recordings and other records connected to crimes - that have been routinely provided to the public under existing law," they wrote.

SPJ says such a restriction would not honor the victims of the Newtown shooting, but would instead use the tragedy as an excuse to close access to public documents that could provide lessons worth learning or help debunk conspiracy theories.