NFOIC and its state and regional affiliates are celebrating Sunshine Week 2016 and the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Freedom of information Act (FOIA) by President Lyndon Johnson on July 4, 1966. This is an important anniversary in our republic. The FOIA represents one of our most important acts passed for our democracy.
It is particularly important in today’s society as citizens of the United State find it increasingly difficult to access their local, state and federal government –public officials and public information (open records and open meetings). At the same time, government and public institutions are faced with the growing and difficult challenges to collect, organize, manage and report public information in today’s digital society.
A chasm is emerging between residents and their public institutions that has created unprecedented friction between them. Failed attempts to gain access, or being denied access to public information is eroding the public’s trust in their governments and decreasing transparent, open and accessible government.
In his statement on the day of signing the FOIA, President Johnson said, “This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: A democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.”
NFOIC plans to showcase the challenges and benefits of freedom of information during Sunshine Week 2016 while recognizing the important contributions by individuals and organizations to help ensure open government at all levels of government.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Active participants include journalists, news media organizations, civic groups, libraries, watchdog organizations, schools, FOI advocacy groups and others interested in the public’s right to know.
Sunshine Week was created by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE). One of the creators of Sunshine Week is Pete Weitzel, veteran newspaper journalist, editor and open government advocate. Pete also helped launch the NFOIC and served as its second president. NFOIC recognized Pete last year during the annual FOI Summit for his tireless contributions to open government and FOI naming him among the “Heroes of the Fifty States” and inducting him into the Open Government Hall of Fame.
Below, you’ll find news and information about Sunshine Week 2016, as well as what’s going on at NFOIC and among its more than 40 state and regional affiliates as they observe Sunshine Week.
- What’s going on in your state or community during Sunshine Week? Check out the list of members who contributed their events. Or, locate and contact your state affiliate directly from our state resources page.
- A great place to start is at the official Sunshine Week web site. Across the country, Sunshine Week 2016 will be marked by panel discussions, workshops and other events about using and understanding the latest developments in freedom of information resources. Check out their Events Page and get involved in activities near you.
- Every other year, NFOIC conducts its national Open Government Survey with the Media Law Resource Center Institute. This most recent survey included the Investigative Reporters and Editors. Watch this page for the release of the latest survey results from our members during Sunshine Week.
- This year, the American Society of News Editors, The Associated Press, The McClatchy Co., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Tribune Publishing teamed up to develop a package of stories, photos and graphics to mark the occasion. Learn more…
- Last year, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Sunshine Week with a feature of political cartoons from newspapers around the country that focused on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We thought we would bring back this feature again this year for the 50th anniversary of FOIA. NFOIC staff had located scores of political cartoons in a file cabinet dating from the 1960s and 1970s in the early days of FOIA. Our top favorites can be seen here, and the rest of the cartoons are available for viewing here. The official Sunshine Week web site has tallied a collection of current political cartoons on FOI and open government. You can browse the collection Sunshine Week Cartoons 2016.)
- NFOIC continues its alliance with FOIA Machine, an open-source platform that empowers citizens and journalists to easily prepare, file and track multiple public records requests to various governmental and public agencies worldwide. Today, many of NFOIC affiliates have their own branded version of FOIA Machine operating on their own web sites thanks to the talented folks at FOIA Machine.
- The American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are pleased to announce the 11th annual Sunshine Week initiative, March 13-19. Special projects and events are already planned around the nation to mark this year’s open-government awareness, which will be even more meaningful as the federal Freedom of Information Act approaches its 50th year in July.
- Contrary to claims by the president that his administration is an open administration, journalist claims the Obama Administration is one of the most closed governments they have worked with. In fact, last year we reported that the FOI Project group found that in in fiscal year 2014 FOI lawsuits brought against the federal government totaled more than in any year since at least 2001. The FOI Project announced that a new record was set in FY 2015 to surpass FY 2014. What does this say about both the transparency of our federal government, or the interest and aggressiveness of the public to take legal action against a government they believe to be violating open records laws?