Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunshine Week helps keep freedom working

As journalists celebrated Sunshine Week last week, it comes at an extraordinary moment in the history of this country with the continued adversarial relationship between the presidency and the press. 

For those who have read my columns with any consistency, you will be the first to know that I typically don’t get involved with politics, especially on the national level. But with what has been happening in the White House over the past several weeks, I can’t just sit back and not respond. I don’t like what has been happening with President Trump when it comes to him constantly fuming about “fake news” and attacking the media. 

Mr. Trump needs to understand that the press is not the opposition party and the media is not the enemy of the American people. 

In my mind, Trump’s constant barbs directed at the media are becoming nauseating and make me wonder what he is really hiding. There are many who feel Trump’s leadership style may rival Hitler’s dictatorship during the 1930s in Germany. After visiting Germany last year and seeing the product of what Hitler created there with the Nazi concentration camps, I hope these naysayers are wrong about Trump for the sake of our country. 

Sunshine Week is devoted to the need for open government and journalists advocating for government transparency on all levels. 

For those who need a little civics refresher, the First Amendment states in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” It is far broader and more uniquely American than when it was ratified in 1791.

Fast-forward about 226 years and we find ourselves in a situation where our current president is threatening democratic principles and the general spirit of a free society. Several examples have made this apparent just in the first few months of Trump’s presidency. 

Advocates of the First Amendment call the Trump administration the most hostile to the press and free expression in memory. This is problematic on many levels. He is chipping away at one of the pillars of our democracy, and that is what troubles me the most. 

Since taking office, the Trump administration has made a series of moves that have alarmed groups with a stake in public access to information. Access to government data should not be limited. 

A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that Americans by a margin of 53-37 trust the media over Trump to tell the truth about important issues. 

During Sunshine Week and every week throughout the year, I encourage people to take a moment to consider what life would be like if government officials operated in total secrecy and restricted access to information. When you want information from your local police, school board or local city or county government, simply ask for it. Just like any member of the media, you have the right to know. 

People must be able to get facts from their government and make smart decisions and hold public officials accountable. Sunshine Week allows us to keep freedom working. 

More than anything, I want the United States to be a world leader in open government. Freedom of information is one of the things that set our country apart from many others. 

Isn’t it time we all go in hot pursuit of pushing for maintaining a free press and pushing for freedom of information? I think we should and believe the founding forefathers of this country would agree.

 

Steele County Times & DCI

Steele County Times
507-583-4431
411 E. Main St.
P.O. Box 247
Blooming Prairie, MN 55917

Dodge County Independent
507-634-7503
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944

Dodge County Printing
507-634-2661
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944

 

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