Editorial: Freedom of information laws important to democracy

The Westminster Window: Sunshine is good for democracy. At least that’s what we journalists think, and the Founding Fathers seemed to agree, judging by the First Amendment.

March 12-18 is Sunshine Week – an annual, nationwide celebration of access to public information. News agencies across the country are using this week to help share the message that transparency in government is important, that a free and independent press is important, and that the defense and adherence to sunshine laws helps support those ideals.

Sunshine laws refer to the national Freedom of Information Act and any number of state open-record and open-meeting laws that help we, the people, keep tabs on what those in power are doing.

While these laws directly affect how well journalists can do our jobs, those same laws are intended for all citizens’ benefit. It can be a way for concerned folks to do their part to keep government honest. Recent examples include a parent in Jefferson County who wanted to know which teachers had participated in a sick-out that affected their child’s education and an Arvada man who objected to his city council’s use of a secret ballot to elect a new councilmember.

Filing an open-records request is something anyone can do. It requires filling out a formal request – a template can be found on the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition’s website at coloradofoic.org – that must be turned in to the government entity’s records custodian. Some agencies have their own forms.

Visit The Westminster Window for more.

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