Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt is misusing the state’s open records law to violate academic freedom and chill the speech of journalists by requesting emails from University of Missouri journalism school professors, PEN America, a free speech and literacy organization, said in a statement Thursday.
The Columbia Missourian reported last week that the state attorney general’s office had requested emails through the state’s sunshine law from two professors regarding their partnership with PolitiFact. The professors worked as editors at the Missourian, which the university supports financially.
“Attorney General Schmitt’s request for the emails of two journalism professors appears to be little more than an effort to intimidate and silence both university faculty and the professional journalists with whom they correspond,” Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education programs at PEN America, said in the statement. “No government official should request copies of a faculty member’s emails unless there is clear evidence of malfeasance.”
Young called on Schmitt to rescind the request immediately.