Consolidation of power and access to information has been taking place in countries around the globe, including the United States during the past few years. In some cases, the data that is provided by some officials is incomplete and inaccurate. The main way to determine whether or not information is misinformation, disinformation, or truth is through freedom of information. That is, the public must be able to freely access vital information.
Accurate, complete information is probably one of the most valuable resources citizens have. Regardless of whether the institution is government, corporate, non-profit organization, or religious, it impacts our lives in vital ways. In a free society, we must preserve our freedom to know what goes on in those institutions that affect us.
It’s easy to see that open access to information is vital to free people. We also understand that secrecy goes hand in hand with abuse of power, corruption, and endangerment of liberty. These truths apply to the public and the private sectors. Transparency in government, corporate, and religious organizations that affect us directly or through influential channels is vital.
“Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.”–designer, programmer, gamer, Sid Meier
Currently, questionable practices, graft, corruption, disinformation campaigns, and outright crimes are on the increase. There are efforts by our major institutions to deflect or censor what we hear and read. This is why we need access to information and the ability to accurately interpret it.
In the U.S., we have the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, as one tool to help us maintain our access to vital information about Executive Branch agencies and bureaus. Tampering and delayed transmission of requested information is prohibited. There are strong penalties for officials who violate the act. There are exemptions that include national defense, foreign policy, also protection of privacy and trade secrets. Unfortunately, officials too often try to excuse misinformation, disinformation, and censorship under the category of exemptions.
FOIA was introduced as a Senate Bill in October of 1965. It passed the Senate that month. It finally passed the House of Representatives in late June of 1966. President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on July 4, 1966. The FOIA is a major tool we citizens can use as long as we insist that it is never bypassed or abolished. There is still a serious freedom of information deficit–that is the lack of FOIA authority over the Legislative Branch.
We remember the FOIA and other methods of institutional transparency today on “National Freedom of Information Day in the U.S. March 16th was selected because this is President James Madison’s birthday. Madison is known as the Father of the U.S. Constitution. We honor his vision of freedom and liberty along with his advocacy of freedom of speech. Now, more than ever before in our lives, our democratic republic is at serious risk. One of our most important tools to save it is our freedom of information.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes former child actress, current activist, author, journalist, poet, political theorist, Robin Morgan. “Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.”