Show why FOI matters

Sept. 28 is kind of a big day for the concept of democracy.

Yes, Congress submitted the U.S. Constitution on this day in 1787 to states for ratification. We all know how that turned out.

But Sept. 28 also is important for another reason: It’s International Right to Know Day, a worldwide event aimed at promoting open government laws and highlighting why they matter. The day commemorates the anniversary of when freedom of information groups from around the globe formed an international coalition called the FOI Advocates Network, of which SPJ is a member.

The network turns 13 years old this year.

Despite that impressive achievement — and unlike ratification of the Constitution, a historical event — the story of the public’s right to know is still being written: Laws governing disclosure of government-held information change and evolve, and there is a constant tug of war over access to public records and proceedings at all levels of government.

Journalists play a key role in that story — we have an ethical duty to do so! — and International Right to Know Day is another opportunity to make a difference.

Here’s how:

  • On Monday, Sept. 28, journalists and FOI advocates can commemorate International Right to Know Day by showcasing the impact of open government laws on social media.
  • To that end, journalists should highlight stories made possible because of open government laws. Did a public records request reveal important information for a story? Did that story effect some kind of change? Did you successfully challenge improper government secrecy? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you have a social media post to share!
  • Use hash tags #FOISuccess and #IRTKD2015. On Twitter, the handle @FOIAnet also can be referenced.
  • Post stories on the FOIAnet Facebook, too.

Jonathan Anderson is chair of the Society’s Freedom of Information Committee.

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