It’s Sunshine Week: 

It’s your right to know

Posted 3/14/23

Sunshine Week is March 12 to 18. This week gives us the opportunity to celebrate and recognize that we all have a right to know. 

Sunshine Week was launched in 2005 by the American Society of …

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It’s Sunshine Week: 

It’s your right to know


Sunshine Week is March 12 to 18. This week gives us the opportunity to celebrate and recognize that we all have a right to know. 

Sunshine Week was launched in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors—now News Leaders Association— in the annual nationwide celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community. It was created in conjunction with the 1986 proclamation by Congress, by House Joint Resolution 371, that designated March 16, 1986, as “Freedom of Information Day” and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this event.

In presenting the resolution, then-President Ronald Reagan said, “March 16 is the anniversary of the birth of James Madison, our fourth President and one of the principal figures in the Constitutional Convention. Madison eloquently expressed the guarantees in the Bill of Rights, in particular in the freedoms of religion, speech, and of the press protected by the First Amendment. He understood the value of information in a democratic society, as well as the importance of its free and open dissemination. He believed that through the interaction of the government and its citizens, facilitated by a free press and open access to information, the government could be most responsive to the people it serves. Surely the American experience has proved him right.”

How it all began

Ensuring this inalienable right to know began in 1952 when John Moss was elected to Congress from a newly created district in Sacramento, CA. This was an amazing razor-thin victory, as he had been falsely accused during the McCarthy era of being either a communist or a communist sympathizer. Arriving in Washington, D.C., in January 1953 he began his campaign to make a more transparent government, where secret deals in back rooms were not allowed.

It took him 11 years to accomplish his mission. When he finally got the bill through Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law into effect. Johnson, who had strenuously opposed the law, signed it in private with no public fanfare. Moss did not receive the signing pen.

When first enacted, the law was not very strong, as Moss had compromised on some of the exclusions in order to get it passed. Congress strengthened it in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, as citizens became distrustful once again of government actions behind closed doors. The act was amended again in 1986 and 1996. The 1996 amendments, collectively known as E-FOIA, made provisions for electronic publication and review of some materials.

Other state laws that use the Freedom of Information Law as their basis are the Open Meeting Law in New York and the PA Sunshine Law.

What these laws enshrine is that meetings must be held in public, notification must be made in advance, and agendas are to be posted before the meetings. Open meetings laws also describe items that can and cannot be discussed in executive session. 

As our area is facing much demographic and economic change, open meetings and an informed educated public are essential. Public officials need to be transparent and open about town government, and residents, wanting to participate must be responsible to know the process and be able to maneuver through it constructively.

The Sunshine Week awareness campaigns offer the opportunity to educate both government officials and the public of their dual and intersecting responsibilities to participate civically and civilly in government.

This will ensure good governance. This is our responsibility as citizens of a democracy to make that democracy of the people for the people and by the people work. This is our right to know.

opinion, sunshine, american society, news editors, first amendment,


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