Q&A: Embargos and enforcement

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The following question came from The Indianapolis Star:

Question: Can a state agency enforce an embargo on materials it gives to the newspaper? The information doesn’t fall under any category that would make it confidential.

Answer: The newspaper would not violate any state law if it published the information prior to the embargo date. An embargo is a gentleman’s agreement.

The question is whether violating the embargo is worth the consequences that might follow.

Will your beat reporter find his or her sources drying up?

Will the agency hold onto the data until the last minute, concluding that an embargo won’t work? Will that make it more difficult for the newspaper to analyze the information or contact other sources for comment than it would if it could have received the information earlier?

Have a media law question for Stephen Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel? Contact him at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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