Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know

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>Download Sunshine Week poster (.pdf format).

What Is Sunshine Week?

Sunshine Week is an annual event that marks the importance of public access to government information. It was originally launched in 2002 by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors (FSNE) as “Sunshine Sunday.” On that day, newspapers across the state ran editorials, op-ed columns, editorial cartoons and news stories highlighting the importance of access to government information.

FSNE estimates that some 300 exemptions to open government laws were defeated in the legislative sessions that followed the three Sunshine Sundays, many because of the increased public awareness that resulted.

Building on the success of the Florida effort, Sunshine Sundays were then launched in other states, including Alabama and South Carolina.

Taking it National

The current initiative, spearheaded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, expands the Sunshine Sunday efforts nationally and across media.

On Sunday, March 16, 2008, and throughout the following week, participating daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, webites, and radio and television broadcasters will feature editorials, op-eds, editorial cartoons, and news and feature stories that discuss the importance of preserving public access to government information. The goal is to drive discussion within the public about why the issue is important to all people in a democracy, not just to journalists.

Where Libraries Fit In

Access to information is one of the founding principles of librarianship, so it’s no surprise that libraries play a role during Sunshine Week. The American Library Association firmly supports equal, ready and equitable access to information collected, compiled, produced, funded and/or disseminated by the government of the United States. ALA also supports the protection of individual privacy, and the right of individuals to gain anonymous access to government information.

For the past several years, ALA has participated in a national Sunshine Week dialogue and webcast on access to government information organized by OpenTheGovernment.org. This year’s webcast—Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know—will take place on Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 1:00–2:30pm (EDT), and features a panel on privacy in the Executive Branch and a panel on how citizens can find the information they need.

The event will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and webcast to sites around the country. Interested readers: you are invited to host a program! Audience members at all sites viewing the live event will have an opportunity to call in (using any telephone) and email questions to the live panels. Hosts are encouraged to show the national program and plan local programs tailored to open government issues in their communities.

More information on the webcast available at www.openthegovernment.org/article/subarchive/109.

More information on Sunshine Week available at www.sunshineweek.org.

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