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Protect right to know

This is the annual Sunshine Week.

The observance is about openness in government, not just about press relations, though it’s often the institutionalized journalist who’s on the front lines of records requests and preventing illegal closed-door meetings of public bodies.

Sunshine Week is an effort of the News Leaders Association and has a simple theme: Open government is good government.

That’s an important recognition — especially when members of the press are under constant attack, not only from those who the nation’s reporters are committed to questioning and taking to task, but from those they serve in the general public.

We live in a nation that depends on public input to make government work and be responsive. We are not given to simply accepting the dictates of our leaders, but requiring those leaders to be honest in their dealings with the formation of rules and regulations and public policy. The stories often are not pretty, but they are the ones that must be told for us to be able to enjoy the freedoms we have as Americans.

Those are the reasons that Sunshine Laws were written, to keep the light of day shining on every recess of every public government organization.

This means protecting journalists and whistleblowers, the people with knowledge of situations in government or the private sector who serve the greater common good by bringing to light facts that otherwise might go unseen.

And while it is a week for the private citizen to recognize his or her rights to seek information from their government and, if necessary, use Freedom of Information Act requests to acquire that information, it is not about right or left, Republican or Democrat — it’s about openness and honesty, and calling attention to the right to know and the responsibility of fighting to maintain that right.

As concerns about the coronavirus pandemic grew during the past year, we’ve worked to provide accurate, verified information about what each of us can do to help mitigate the potential risks, and reported on steps being taken on the local, state and national levels to help minimize health concerns.

In an era where every institution, from the office of the president to the school board, might just want to do business without the pesky inquiries and intervention of the general public, it is a good week to remember that people employ the government, and not the other way around. That makes the free flow of information and response to legitimate inquiry necessary if we are to preserve the nation as the beacon of freedom that it always has been.

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