Fourth estate, open government laws important for public's right to know
The Freedom of Information Foundation works to bring “sunlight” to all areas of government.
Nearly every legislative session in Texas, freedom of information advocates play defense to combat legislators who work to add loopholes and close public records.
New tools such as cell phones, email and texting have made it easier to have “walking quorums,” the electronic version of “nudge and a wink.”
On a broader level, there is a highly politicized spin-control culture at every government level. Just recently, a state assistant attorney general encouraged those in charge of records to drag their feet or play favorites among journalists requesting public information.
Journalists should be able to directly contact public officials — whether at federal, state or local levels — without an intervening from a public relations specialist.
We bring these up not to disparage public employees, most of whom do their jobs without malice, but to remind our readers that these jobs are a public trust. Open records and open meetings laws exist for everyone, not just “nosy reporters.”
It is popular to bash the press these days, but the Fourth Estate is the best check and balance on government. These days, it’s also important to shine the light on those seeking to influence lawmakers.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said this in 1913: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
Indeed, dirty politics and dirty government exist only in the cover of darkness. –K.E.C.