Sunshine Week is about your right to know

Snow is once again in the forecast for this week. No matter the accumulation, the white fluffy stuff will not dampen one of

the brightest weeks of the year. Sunshine Week begins today.

It may only last seven calendar days, but for citizens who rely on a transparent government to operate openly for the betterment and safety of our society at every level – municipal, state and federal – we at The Telegraph are determined to keep the sun shining on government year-round.

We aren’t alone.

During Sunshine Week, media organizations, civic groups, nonprofits and others will engage in public discussions about the importance of open government nationwide.

There remain state legislatures exempting themselves from public-record laws, claiming “legislative immunity.” Most notable is Washington state.

This is why Sunshine Week was established in 2005, a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors. Its purpose is to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy.

It coincides with James Madison’s birthday and National Freedom of Information Day, March 16.

The father of the United States Constitution, Madison also is viewed as a defender of open government.

“(A) popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives,” he wrote.

The Telegraph agrees with our nation’s fourth president. He was spot on in declaring that the only guardian of true liberty is the advancement and diffusion of knowledge.

In an effort to illuminate how public officials respond to requests for public information, we will cover a wide range of topics this week, including today’s story about Nashua Police being one of a handful of departments in New Hampshire to actually comply with the new guidelines from the Attorney General’s Office with regard to the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule. It’s the first of a three-part series regarding what is known as the Laurie List, which is a database of officers who have been found to lack credibility, use excessive force, fail to comply with legal procedures, or have exhibited mental illness or instability.

While we in the media are doing our best to file Right to Know requests – in an attempt to get information important to understanding how government works, or when public officials refuse to release public information – you should also be taking similar steps as a citizen.

This week isn’t about a newspaper’s right to know, it’s about your right to know.