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It’s Sunshine Week

BY BRUCE BRANUM

The Greenville Standard

 

It’s Sunshine Week. A week to celebrate freedom of information laws in every state.

It also celebrates the good efforts of government advocates and journalists to enlist those laws in the search for information we need as self-governing citizens.

Sunshine Sunday began in Florida in 2002, led by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

National Sunshine Week was launched in 2005, thanks to the hard work of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE).

ASNE would merge with the Associated Press Media Editors to the News Leaders Association in 2019.

Now, participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civics groups, non-profits, schools and libraries.

Sunshine Week coincides each year in mid-March with James Madison’s birthday, March 16, 1975, and National Freedom of Information Day on March 16.

During Sunshine Week, hundreds of media organizations, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and other participants engage public discussion on the importance of open government through news and feature articles and opinion columns; special web pages and blogs; infographics; editorial cartoons; public service advertising; public seminars and forums.

The purpose of the week is to highlight the fact that government functions best when it operates in the open.

In many states, however, legislatures exempt themselves from public-records laws, claiming legislative immunity.

Freedom of information laws allow access by the general public to data held by national governments and, where applicable, by state and local governments.

Here are some ways to celebrate and promote Sunshine Week:

As an educator, you can use Sunshine Week to teach your students about how government transparency improves our lives and makes our communities stronger.

If you are an elected official, you can pass a resolution supporting openness, introduce legislation improving public access or encourage training of government employees to ensure compliance with existing laws mandating open records and meetings.

There are many ways to celebrate, but attending meetings of your local council, commissioners, or school board is a great first step and will serve as a reminder to them they are being listened to and watched.

The Greenville Standard joins with the News Leaders Association for the annual celebration of Sunshine Week and access to public information.

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