Clouds On The Horizon: The Publicís Right To Know Is Under Attack This is the first Sunshine Week, since it began in 2005, when the publicís right to know has been under direct assault, and on several fronts.†
BigNews.Biz - Mar 14,2017 - Clouds On The Horizon: The Publicís Right To Know Is Under Attack
By Patrick Leahy
This is the first Sunshine Week, since it began in 2005, when the publicís right to know has been under direct assault, and on several fronts.† ďFake news,Ē ďalternative facts,Ē retaliatory restrictions of press access by the White House, and demonizing attacks on the working press are eroding the publicís access to real facts and real information about what their government is doing.
Next week the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene for crucial hearings to consider the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the United States Supreme Court.† These hearings are a unique moment when all three branches of government converge as senators consider a presidentially appointed nominee to serve on the highest court in the land.† I plan to use these public hearings to ask Judge Gorsuch about vital matters affecting millions of Americans, and about how he will approach those issues if he is confirmed.
It is fitting that these hearings will occur just after Sunshine Week, a time when we rededicate ourselves to transparency in government.† It was Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a staunch believer in open government, who famously said that sunlight is the best disinfectant.† It is often the press that shines the sunlight in dark corners where we need it most.† Since the beginning of our republic, Americans have recognized the freedom of the press as central to our democracy.† But today, that basic understanding is being tested by a president who apparently needs a refresher.
Our Constitution provides for freedom of the press because a democracy cannot survive without it.† But a free press is not just a constitutional requirement; it is essential for the publicís participation and faith in democracy.† The press informs the public and holds elected officials accountable.† It serves as a critical check on our government, shining a light on corruption, exploitation, injustice, and excess.†
With the new administration, the very existence of facts and truth seem to be under attack.† From his first days in office, in which he made outlandish claims about his inauguration crowd size, the president has waged a war against reality.† President Trump labels unfavorable reports as ďfake news,Ē while simultaneously decrying the leaks from his administration that gave rise to the reports in the first place.† And in an attempt at censorship, his administration has retaliated against respected media institutions by limiting their access to cover the White House.
Instead of censoring the media, we have a responsibility to ensure it can operate freely. †Last year we took a significant step forward when Congress finally enacted my FOIA Improvement Act to strengthen and modernize the Freedom of Information Act ó our nationís premier transparency law and a tool the press relies on to root out the truth behind government spin.† This new law, which took years of hard work to pass, made permanent President Obamaís directive that government agencies operate with a ďpresumption of opennessĒ