For the people

Sunshine Week refers to the importance of open government and freedom of information to a successful democracy.

Sunshine Week 2011 is March 13-19 and seeks to involve the public in finding out what the government is doing and why.

Politicians and government officials often forget they are working for the American people and not for lobbyists from a multinational corporation. They have the duty of making decisions that are in the best interest of the people they represent. Government organizations often make decisions that negatively impact its citizens without openly explaining the reasons for the decisions.

In the state of Michigan, any member of the public can request information from a government official or agency and the law requires them to respond with answers. The Freedom of Information Act has been in effect since 1967 and can be used by any member of the public to attain information from the federal government, as well as state governments.

Though this right exists for all, it is not often taken advantage of. Journalists are responsible for uncovering truths and making the public informed. Newspapers do not exist for any other reason than to pass information along to the readers. Journalists act as the channel between the government and the public and are often the only means by which citizens gain information regarding government policies, decisions, and laws.

Democracy in the United States only works when the public can make informed decisions in regards to voting on issues and for political figures. If politicians are covering up or withholding information that the public should know, then democracy is skewed right at its very core.

Governments do not always make decisions that the people agree with and do not always admit their faults. It’s up to newspapers to uncover the truth behind tax increases or policy amendments that adversely affect citizens. n