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Sunshine Sunday: Today begins weeklong spotlight on open government and access to public information

Sunshine Sunday: Today begins weeklong spotlight on open government and access to public information

March 10th, 2018 by Gazette Staff in Opinion Editorial

Back in 2002, some members of the Florida Legislature apparently decided the good folks who elected them were getting a bit too nosy about what was going on in the state capitol.

So they decided to offer legislation restricting the public's access to some previously open records.

They might have gotten away with it. Many in the public would probably have never known.

But newspapers in the state decided to fight. They banded together and declared "Sunshine Sunday," publishing articles and editorial against the proposals.

It took three years—but about 300 bills to restrict information were voted down in the Legislature, largely because of the media attention.

In 2005, the American Society of Newspaper Editors took the idea nationwide and extended it to seven days. Sunshine Week was set for mid-March to coincide with President James Madison's birthday.

We in the news business pay special attention to this week and we encourage everyone to think about the importance of open government and open access to public information.

Why?

Because it's not just journalists who benefit from such access.

Members of the public at times have reason to request public information and to file Freedom of Information Act requests from all levels of government, local, state or federal.

Yes, there are some things that must remain secret in the interest of national security. But the people of this great nation do not have to accept government that operates in the shadows. Our government officials must be accountable for their actions. Public awareness is a big part of that.

Sunshine Week is about that awareness.

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