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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know

“A better climate for keeping government as open as possible has to begin with improving public understanding and support for freedom of information,” said Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley, a member of the Sunshine Week steering committee. “This project marks a great new start in promoting public awareness of these issues.”

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. The Radio Television News Directors Association also has received a Knight grant to help broadcasters to participate.

Other journalism groups and media companies also support the project, and several state press associations are coordinating existing Sunshine Sunday programs with the national effort. The 54-member Steering Committee includes leaders from media companies, newspapers, magazines, academia and major journalism organizations.

“This is not just an issue for the press. It’s an issue for the public,” said Andy Alexander, ASNE Freedom Of Information chair, who is chief of the Cox Newspapers’ Washington bureau. “An alarming amount of public information is being kept secret from citizens and the problem is increasing by the month. Not only do citizens have a right to know, they have a need to know.

“Our goal is the raise public awareness of this horrible trend that is hurting democracy,” he said of the Sunshine Week project. “We hope that it sparks a public dialogue about the value of open government and the damage to citizens from excessive government secrecy.”

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