The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (§ 2.2-3700 et. seq. of the Code of Virginia) guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth, representatives of newspapers and magazines with circulation in the Commonwealth, and epresentatives of radio and television stations broadcasting in or into the Commonwealth, access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

A public record is any writing or recording -- regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format -- that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business (Va. Code § 2.2-3701). Records that are not prepared for or used in the transaction of public business are not public records. All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.

The policy of FOIA states that the purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

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