FOI Oklahoma seeks nominations for First Amendment, freedom of information awards for 2013

Nominations are open for FOI Oklahoma’s awards recognizing individuals and organizations that promoted the First Amendment and the free flow of information to the public in 2013. FOI Oklahoma’s Black Hole Award also recognizes those who opposed dissemination of public information.

The Ben Blackstock Award is presented to a non-governmental person or organization that has shown a commitment to freedom of information. The Sunshine Award goes to a public official or governmental body that has shown a commitment to open meetings and open records.

FOI Oklahoma also recognizes an Oklahoman who has promoted education about or protection of the individual rights guaranteed by the First Amendment with its Marian Opala First Amendment Award. The award is named for the late Oklahoma Supreme Court justice, a Polish immigrant who exemplified a belief in First Amendment rights.

All four awards will be presented March 15 during FOI Oklahoma’s annual Sunshine Week conference at the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library in Oklahoma City.

The deadline for nominations for all four awards is Feb. 21.

Nominations must include a letter of no more than 250 words justifying why the person or organization is deserving of the award.

Nominations may be made via email to or mailed to FOI Awards, PO Box 5315, Edmond, OK 73083-5315.

Last year, the Sunshine Award was presented to state Rep. Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City for working to reform the Department of Human Services’ tracking and reporting of child deaths and near deaths.

The Ben Blackstock Award was presented to the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise and Publisher Chris Rush. The newspaper went to court to successfully obtain video footage of a September 2011 incident in which local police officers were accused of assaulting a hospital patient.

The Opala First Amendment Award winner was the Enid News & Eagle, recognized for its successful lawsuit supporting the public’s First Amendment right of access to sealed court records.

The Black Hole Award recognized Gov. Mary Fallin and her general counsel, Steve Mullins, for claiming executive privilege to hide emails and other records from public scrutiny.

This will be the seventh year for the awards.

FOI Oklahoma is a statewide not-for-profit founded in 1990 to educate the public on the First Amendment and openness in government.