Celebrating Sunshine Week

March 12, 2013

By Emily

March 10-16, 2013 is Sunshine Week, a time to reflect on the state of public access to government information and work together to make our government more transparent. In celebration of Sunshine Week, AALL is cosponsoring the 2013 National Freedom of Information Day discussion on open government in the Obama Administration. You can participate by watching the webcast.

AALL also contributed to two new reports released this month is honor of Sunshine Week. The first, “Highlighted Best Practices for Open and Accountable Government,” offers examples of model federal government transparency and accountability practices. The goal of the report is to encourage agencies to learn from each other to find ways to make their operations more transparent. For example, under “Proactive Release of Agency Operations,” the reports commends the Department of StateDepartment of CommerceFood and Drug AdministrationDepartment of Health and Human Services (HHS)General Services Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for making their staff directories easily accessible online. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) prepared the report, with contributions from AALL, Bauman Foundation, Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Effective Government, OpenTheGovernment.org, Sunlight Foundation, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

The second report, “Civil Society Report on Implementation of the First US National Action Plan,” is the result of a years-long evaluation of the White House’s National Action Plan on open government. OpenTheGovernment.org organized teams to evaluate specific issues in the plan and work with the government leads. AALL served on the Freedom of Information Act, Records Management and OpenGov Implementation Teams. The report provides an assessment of the government’s completion of the commitment, collaboration with the public, responsiveness of the government to recommendations made by civil society organizations and meaningfulness and sustainability of the government’s efforts. Overall,  the evaluators determined that the government met its promises in 19 of the 25 commitments.

For more information about Sunshine Week, including events in your area, see http://sunshineweek.org/. We will also be posting summaries of events throughout the week and tweeting at @AALL_GRO.

Explore Hundreds of Daily Newspapers Online

April 8, 2008

This coming weekend, the Newseum, “The Interactive Museum of News,” becomes the latest museum to open on Pennsylvania Avenue. Even before the museum opens, you can take a look around their website for educational and fun resources. One that stands out is a searchable display of 616 daily newspaper front pages from 61 countries in their original, unedited form. You can sort the papers by region, scan through a list organized by state or click on a map to see the dailies covered.

Having already visited the Newseum for the First Amendment Center’s Sunshine Week event in March, I can tell you that the museum is a large, beautiful space filled with what promise to be all sorts of educational adventures.

Thanks to the Due Process: The Georgetown Law Library Blog for the tip!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Carter Center: Access to information is a fundamental human right

March 31, 2008

Last week, participants in the International Conference on the Right to Public Information released the Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action for the Advancement of the Right of Access to Information. The Atlanta Declaration sets out the group’s findings, lays out key principles, and sets out a plan of action to advance access to information as a fundamental human right.

The principles include:

1. Access to information is a fundamental human right.

2. All states should enact legislation to give effect to the right of access to information.

3. The right of access to information applies to all intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, international financial institutions, regional development banks, and bilateral and multilateral bodies. These public institutions should lead by example and support others efforts to build a culture of transparency.

[See the rest of the principles and the plan of action here]

The plan of action sets out steps for international and regional bodies, donors, states and corporate, professional, and civil society organizations to support access to information all over to the world.

The Declaration comes as a result of the International Conference on the Right to Public Information sponsored by The Carter Center in February. The conference brought together representatives from key stakeholder groups – governments, donors, media, civil society, private sector, and academia. You can hear The Carter Center’s Laura Neuman discuss the conference and the then-forthcoming report by listening to the podcast of the panel on international transparency at Washington College of Law’s Collaboration on Government Secrecy‘s First Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration, held during Sunshine Week.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Sunshine Week and Open Government Resources

March 25, 2008

On Wednesday, March 19, OpenTheGovernment.org and AALL co-sponsored the third annual Sunshine Week National Dialogue on Open Government and Secrecy, “Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know.” The event was a great success! The program was webcast live from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to sites and individuals around the country. There were over one hundred attendees at the National Press Club, twenty-two host site events which included hundreds of participants around the country, and over seven hundred registrants for the webcast. You can now watch the archived version of the webcast on the National Press Club site. The webcast will soon be permanently available on OpenTheGovernment.org’s website.

Thanks to all of the law libraries and chapters that participated in the event: Lake County Law Library (OH); the Lyon County Law Library (KS); the Westminster Law Library at Sturm College of Law, University of Denver; the Law Librarians of Puget Sound (LLOPS) with the Washington State Library; and the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) with the San Francisco Bay Region Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. Many thanks also to all of the volunteers and participants! We are thrilled that so many AALL members took part in the event this year.

To continue the momentum towards sunshine at the local, state, and national levels, OpenTheGovernment.org put together a fantastic set of resources on open government issues. Resources are organized by subject and include books and articles on Executive privilege, information and democracy, and information technology issues. OpenTheGovernment.org also put together a list of recent legislation on disclosure and open government with links to more information about the bills.

After this year’s successes, we happily look forward to Sunshine Week 2009!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Surveys Show Public’s Desire for Transparency

March 19, 2008

Two important surveys released in conjunction with Sunshine Week illustrate the public’s desire for a more open government.

The first, a Sunshine Week survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, found that 74 percent of those polled view the federal government as very or somewhat secretive, up from 62 percent of those surveyed in 2006. Almost all of those interviewed, 92 percent, said open government is important to them in assessing candidates for state offices such as governor or attorney general.

The second survey is summarized in a report released today by OMB Watch, Top Open Government Questions for Candidates. The report names the top five open government questions that Americans would like candidates for federal office to answer before the November elections, based on a survey of more than 2,000 people. The questions can be used by voter groups, the media, and the general public to query candidates on openness and secrecy.

The top five open government questions are:

1) Manipulation of Facts
Concerns have been raised about possible manipulation of information produced by agencies and the influence of the White House over agency decisions. Do you support disclosure of all communications between the White House (including the Office of Management and Budget and other executive offices) and agencies regarding administrative decision-making and information disclosure?

2) Executive Privilege
What do you believe are the appropriate limits of executive privilege in the disclosure of information to Congress and the public?

3) Whistleblowers
Under the Sarbanes-Oxley law, only corporate whistleblowers revealing financial abuses are protected. In order to strengthen accountability against corporate crimes, would you support pending legislation that expands whistleblower protection rights to private sector workers who report violations of any federal public health and safety laws?

4) Presidential Records
Executive Order 13233 limits access to presidential records under the Presidential Records Act by giving former presidents the power to effectively veto the release of their records. Do you commit to reversing Executive Order 13233 to restore public access to presidential records after twelve years?

5) Health, Safety & Environment
Given the importance of health and safety information, how would you ensure that the public has easy access to understandable information about the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the products they use?

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Celebrate Sunshine Week!

March 18, 2008

Now is the time to celebrate Sunshine Week! Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information and there are many ways to participate! Sunshine Week officially began on March 16, James Madison’s birthday.

Although the following events take place in the Washington, D.C. area, many of them will be webcast or podcast and available wherever you are!

Events this week include:

Tonight, Tuesday March 18:

Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley will address Freedom of Information and other open government issues during a Sunshine Week dinner event at The National Press Club. The dinner is being jointly presented by Sunshine Week and the Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library.

Wednesday, March 19

OpenTheGovernment.org and AALL are sponsoring the third annual Sunshine Week National Dialogue on Open Government and Secrecy. This year’s panel discussions will focus on “Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know.” The event will be webcast for free from the National Press Club. Sites around the country will be hosting viewings and discussions.

Thursday, March 20

The Sunlight Foundation and Omidyar Network will host a discussion with Lawrence Lessig, law professor and director of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. Lessig will introduce a plan called “Change Congress,” designed to increase congressional transparency. The lecture is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the National Press Club and will also be available via webcast.

Yesterday, the Washington College of Law’s Collaboration on Government Secrecy held its First Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration and a podcast of the event will be made available in the near future. In addition, on Friday, March 14, the First Amendment Center hosted the 10th annual National FOI Day Conference at the Newseum. Read about that event here.

Bring More Sunshine to Your State!

March 4, 2008

Sunshine Week 2008 [March 16-22] is quickly approaching and you are invited to participate! AALL is co-sponsoring the National Dialogue on Open Government and Secrecy with OpenTheGovernment.org for the third year in a row, and we are looking for host sites to show the webcast! This year, the program, “Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know,” will be webcast live for free (also available via satellite downlink for a fee) from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on March 19 from 1-2:30pm EDT. Audience members at all sites will have an opportunity to call in and email questions to the panels. If you are not able to show the program live, you may show it at a later date.

In addition to hosting viewings of the national program, host sites are encouraged to organize audience discussions or panel presentations after the national program on local open government issues. Sites can now register until March 18. If you are interested in hosting or have questions please contact: Chris Green, Program Associate, OpenTheGovernment.org.

We are pleased to report that the following chapters and law libraries are hosting events: the Lake County Law Library (OH); the Lyon County Law Library (KS); the Westminster Law Library at Sturm College of Law, University of Denver; the Law Librarians of Puget Sound (LLOPS) with the Washington State Library; and the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) with the San Francisco Bay Region Chapter of the Special Libraries Association.

Sunshine Week began in 2005 as a national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

This year’s program, “Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know,” will be in 2 parts:

I. The Secret Executive — What Can Congress and the Public Do?

This panel will address executive branch power and secrecy, congressional rights and responsibilities, and the role of the press in combating government secrecy.

Patrice McDermott (Moderator): Director of OpenTheGovernment.org.
Anne Beeson: Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute and
previously Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Mickey Edwards: Director of the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership and former Republican member of Congress from Oklahoma for 16 years (1977-92)
John Podesta: President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress, Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton from October 1998 until January 2001, and formerly in senior staff positions in Congress

II. Citizen Self-Help: Finding the Information You Need

-We will be visiting and talking with creators of web sites that make hard-to-find government information easy for the public to find and use and hopefully inspire you to do likewise!
-A report will be given on an initiative to develop a 21st Century Right-to-Know agenda and recommendations for the next President and Congress.


-Greg Elin (Sunlight Labs) (Moderator)
-Bill Allison (Sunlight Foundation)
-Sheila Krumholz (Center for Responsive Politics/OpenSecrets.org)
-David Moore (OpenCongress.org)
-Sean Moulton (FedSpending.org)
-Daniel X. O’Neil (EveryBlock)
-Gary Bass (OMB Watch)

In each segment, opportunities will be available for audience questions from all participants.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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