Sunshine Week spotlights public#039;s right to know

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 20, 2006

Today marks the culmination of the second-annual Sunshine Week, designed to make the public aware of the importance of open government. Sunshine Week was celebrated from March 12-18.

Journalists spearheaded Sunshine Week, but that does not necessarily mean it was established especially for journalists. An open form of government is something every American deserves and is the foundation upon which this country was founded. Public officials should be held accountable for their actions and in Alabama our new Open Meetings Law ensures every Alabamian is allowed access to government meetings, whether they be local or state.

A Feb. 28, editorial by The Star Tribune in Minneapolis- St. Paul recalled the words of President Lyndon B. Johnson's press secretary Bill Moyers, who said Johnson had to be &#8220dragged, kicking and screaming” to the table to sign the Freedom of Information Act. Moyers said Johnson &#8220hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closetsŠhated them challenging the official view of reality.”

But that singular event marked a turning point for America. Think of all the events journalists have uncovered since Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act: The Watergate scandal, the Pentagon Papers, the Iran-Contra affair, the Whitewater Scandal, and more recently, the pictures of ongoing abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Journalists shall always remain a watchdog organization for local, state and the federal government, thereby ensuring that Americans are made aware of the who, what, where, when and why of those who hold a significant amount of power in this nation.

Sunshine Week celebrates this fact and we're proud to be a catalyst for the public's right and need to know.