Never take a freedom for granted — even the one ranked No. 1 by the Founding Fathers.
“The 45 words of the First Amendment have been shielding us from government interference in our core freedoms since 1791 – 228 years,” writes Gene Policinski is president of the Freedom Forum Institute, a nonprofit organization that defends the First Amendment.
Those time-honored words read:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The founders knew that someone always would prefer to silence his or her critics and keep the business of government a secret.
Take a look just across our southern border, where that state’s Open Records Law is coming under attack.
A bill in the Kentucky legislature would damage the cause of open government in several ways. It would make it harder to find out how tax dollars are being spent to lure new businesses. It would make it more difficult to appeal a denial of a request for open records. It would exclude non-residents from using the Kentucky Open Records Law to gain access to government records.
Hoosiers can’t help our Kentucky neighbors in their fight to keep government open, but we can stay vigilant about our own access to information.
Indiana enjoys a strong law requiring open meetings and records, but don’t be complacent and think “it can’t happen here.”
As an encouraging sign for Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb has declared the very first “Thank a Journalist Day,” which will be observed Wednesday.
The special day is the creation of Eddie Metzger, a senior studying advertising at Ball State University’s Department of Journalism, and his fellow students.
“Journalists tell the stories of our hometown heroes,” Metzger wrote. “They inform us about the routine like local weather alerts, what’s happened at the school board meeting and neighborhood crime. They report on events happening across the street that we didn’t know existed and are integral to any functioning society, no matter its size. These invisible societal watchdogs hold our towns together with little to no recognition.”
We appreciate Metzger’s efforts to honor journalists, but we want to make it clear that what we do is not about us — it’s about you.
Today is the start of Sunshine Week, an annual event to raise awareness of open government.
Open meeting laws and open records laws make it easier for reporters to do our work — but they’re not just for journalists. Ordinary citizens have filed some of the most important cases using our laws to keep government officials from operating in secret.
“Sunshine Week is our annual rallying call to stand up against those who would do the public’s business in private and hide from the public the records of public policy and spending,” Policinski wrote.
To mark Sunshine Week, Policinski suggests, “Attend a school board meeting or local court session. Use the web to find the status of your state’s FOI (freedom of information) law. Information on all 50 states and DC are available at https://www.nfoic.org/coalitions/state-foi-resources/state-freedom-of-information-laws.”
Our view is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial boad. We welcome readers’ comments.