Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, will be inducted into the Open Government Hall of Fame at the FOI Summit in Arlington, VA.
COLUMBIA, MO and ARLINGTON, VA (April 16, 2010) – In order for Freedom of Information to remain a reality, we require individuals who have the foresight to see potential dangers, the willingness to take on the fight, and the diligence to persist regardless of the obstacles.
We are fortunate to have such individuals in the FOI movement, and occasionally we celebrate that fact by honoring them publicly.
Toward that end, we are pleased to announce that Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, has been selected by the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists for their joint Heroes of the 50 States: The Open Government Hall of Fame award for 2010.
The presentation will be made at this year’s FOI Summit held May 7 - 8 in Arlington, VA.
Before becoming executive director of the Committee in 1976, Freeman had been its counsel. He received his law degree from New York University and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
"Bob Freeman is a uniquely towering Freedom of Information figure not only in his home state of New York, but throughout the entire U.S. and much of the world," said Mitchell W. Pearlman, lecturer in Journalism at the University of Connecticut (Storrs) and longtime director of that state's FOI body, as well as the recipient of last year's Heroes award. "As the executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, Bob was the first official in the U.S. to conceive of, and implement, an office that is now replicated in a number of states, provinces and countries. He was also one of the original proponents of the concept that freedom of information is not merely a legal mandate, but an ethical responsibility for all government officials."
In 1982, the New York State Society of Newspaper Editors presented Mr. Freeman with its Friend of the Free Press Award. In 1992 he was given the First Amendment Award by the New York Press Association, while The New York City Chapter of SPJ presented him with its First Amendment Award in 1994.
"Throughout New York state, news organizations from the New York Times to village gazettes go to Bob for FOI advice and to informally mediate FOI disputes. Likewise, judges often rely on his written opinions upholding the public's right to know, " Pearlman continued. "During a career that's spanned more than 35 years, he's accomplished all this—and much more—by the sheer power of his dynamic personality, his tremendous intellect and a single-minded commitment to open and accountable government."
"In the FOI community here and abroad, there's simply no greater expert—nor more respected person—than Bob Freeman."
Most recently, Freeman was given the Distinguished Public Service Award by the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York at Albany.
"Robert Freeman is one of the people everyone in the Freedom of Information movement has turned to for advice and legal know-how," said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. "He stands as one of the great voices of FOI and has talked to groups, large and small, about the topic more often than anyone else on the planet."
The State Open Government Hall of Fame is open to anyone who has made a substantial, sustained and lasting contribution to open government or freedom of information within one particular state. Nominees may come from government, the media, the non-profit sector, the legal profession, or any other area of endeavor that involves citizen access to government records, meetings and procedures.