Open government laws agree with the First Amendment

Miriam Williamson

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.”

The First Amendment is constantly under scrutiny, as people pick it apart and try to figure out what the original intention was and how it applies in today’s society.

Although the First Amendment does not specifically grant the press the right to Sunshine Laws, it prohibits government from hindering the press’ ability to report. Without Sunshine Laws, the press is unable to serve as a watchdog, and the freedom of the press is abridged.

In order for the government to run as a true democracy, it is important that citizens know what is going on and are invited to participate, even if it is simply by being aware. Journalists serve as the gatekeepers to this information and have the responsibility to determine what should be reported.

Public Records and Open Meetings laws ensure that the press, and any other citizen, will have the resources to properly obtain and report information the public needs to know, and further promote participatory democracy.

Threatening the freedom of the press is a slippery slope that journalists today cannot risk. When journalists are restricted from doing their job because they cannot access the information they need, it leads to a less-informed society.

Each state should have the broadest open government laws possible in order to enhance the country’s ability to practice democracy.

Citizens and journalists alike should lobby for more openness and less government secrecy.

But with these laws comes even more responsibility.

While the government agencies and employees should know the rules associated with these laws, it is the journalist’s job to enforce them. A journalist should know the rules, and insist that they be upheld, regardless of any opposition.

Elon students and journalists can learn more about North Carolina’s Sunshine Laws through the Sunshine Center, which was started in 2007.

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