10 Facts About Sunshine Week and the Freedom of Information Act

Sunshine Week
Sunshine Week logo. The weeklong celebration of a more open government started March 10 and ends Saturday. (Photo: www.sunshineweek.rcfp.org)

Journalists and citizens across the country this week are celebrating Sunshine Week, an initiative that started seven years ago to promote open government.

The Freedom of Information Act gives any citizen the right to access information from the federal government. Participating in the initiative are journalists, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and other people and organizations promoting a more open democracy. The week-long celebration started Sunday, March 10 and ends Saturday. The motto: “Open government is good government.”

Here are some facts about Sunshine Week:

1. When was the FOIA created?
President Lyndon Johnson signed this act in 1966.

2. What exactly is Sunshine Week?
Sunshine Week promotes the importance of open government and freedom of information. Sunshine Week was created by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and takes place one week in March every year.

3. Who can participate in Sunshine Week?
Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.

4. There are many ways to celebrate Sunshine Week.
A journalist can talk about the importance of The Freedom of Information Act by stories, editorials or cartoons. An educator can use sunshine week to teach the importance of government transparency. And a citizen can spread the meaning of sunshine week to social media sites.

5. Share your thoughts
Sunshine week has both a Facebook page and a twitter page so staying connected during this week is easier.

6. There are events all over the United States dedicated to Sunshine Week.
Many Colleges across The US and government and political office buildings are holding seminars stating the importance of FOIA. For information on places located please visit The National Freedom of Information Coalition website.

7. It is actually very easy to file for a FOIA request.
A request can be done electronically but there is a fee for requests. The search fee is based on the salary level of the people who conducts the search.

8. Not all FOIA requests come from the media.
Many requests come from lawyers and private investigators seeking accidents reports and political parties’ research their own candidates and opponents.

9. It doesn’t take long for requests to be granted.
Under FOIA, agencies have 20 working days to answer a request.

10. FOIA requests are being denied more in the past ten years.
It is noted in many articles that since President Barack Obama have been in office many requests have been denied due to security reasons.