Americans’ right to receive information vital

An editorial from The Times-West Virginian

Sunshine Week
Sunshine Week

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — “Open government is good government” is again the theme for Sunshine Week, which runs through Saturday.

It was launched in 2005, and the focus is on the importance of access to public information and what it means to the providers of this information and the community. The annual initiative promotes open government and pushes against against excessive official secrecy.

Sunshine Week, of course, gets plenty of attention in the media across the country — those people in charge of providing information to their readers, listeners and viewers.

The concept, however, is wider — much wider.

“Sunshine Week serves as a reminder of the vital importance of the public’s right to know,” said Don Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Press Association.

Americans have a right to know about the action being taken by their government — from officials in the smallest communities to the White House. Secrecy — with obvious exceptions such as national security and legitimate privacy concerns in matters such as personnel decisions — should not be tolerated in our country.

Amid the celebration of the importance of open government come challenges.

In West Virginia, for example, the Supreme Court ruled last year that government agencies can charge an hourly fee for locating documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

As we pointed out at the time, providing such information is a part of the job these agencies are charged to perform for the public…

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