Open government isn’t something you just read about in a high school civics class — it’s a daily struggle between the free press and government bureaucrats or elected officials who deliberately seek to hide information from a public that expects them to be as transparent as possible.
In order to celebrate this access every year, local news organizations (like this one) celebrate Sunshine Week, which this year falls on March 12-18.
This year, the Society of Professional Journalists is partnering with the News Leaders Association to host Sunshine Week.
Launched in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors (now known as NLA), Sunshine Week aims to promote open government and shine light into the dark recesses of government secrecy.
“Our Sunshine Week partnership with the NLA allows two dedicated journalism organizations to highlight the critical importance of access to public information,” said SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Chair Jodi Rave Spotted Bear in a Feb. 21 press release announcing the effort. “We’re here to support and encourage local, state, tribal and U.S. citizens to fully engage in their right to freedom of information from all levels of government.”
“We are excited by our partnership with SPJ to promote open government during Sunshine Week,” said NLA Executive Director Myriam Marquez, in the same press release. “Democracy thrives with an informed citizenry, and Sunshine Week highlights the challenges facing our nation and the opportunities to ensure public information remains public.”
There are plenty of organizations out there dedicated to a free press and government access:
• SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.
• The National Freedom of Information Coalition is an organization whose members protect the right to open government by ensuring state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures in place to facilitate press and public access to information and proceedings.
• The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the news gathering rights of journalists. The RCFP serves news organizations, reporters, editors, documentary filmmakers, media lawyers, and many more who use its online resources.
• The Wisconsin Newspaper Association, established in 1853 by and for Wisconsin’s newspapers, exists to strengthen the newspaper industry, enhance public understanding of the role of newspapers, and protect basic freedoms of press, speech and the free flow of information.
The founders of this country believed that through a free press, its citizens would be more informed consumers of government information. Allowing citizens to actively participate in their own government would avoid the mistakes made by England’s monarchy and lead to the grand experiment that the United States of America remains today.
Please join us and these organizations in celebrating press freedom, calling out government secrecy and participating in your government during Sunshine Week, March 12-18.