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A week to celebrate government of, by and for the people

Let the sunshine in.

Throw open the shades.

Let the people see clearly inside the halls of government.

Today marks the start of Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide observance of the news media in the interest of government transparency.

Let’s face it, it’s never been easy to gain access to certain types of information. Some people just don’t want to divulge certain facts. Even when that information involves the business of the people.

Pennsylvania has two key laws that promote transparency — the Sunshine Act, governing open meetings, and the Right to Know Law that provides access to public records.

These laws are in place to benefit everybody — not just journalists.

Even with these laws, journalists as well as ordinary citizens often find themselves unable to get the information they seek. It is not uncommon to encounter barriers along the way while attempting to gain access to what should be open public meetings and to what should be public information held by government agencies.

This idea should not be difficult. An open government is a bedrock of our democracy. Remember, ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. To conceal information from the public undermines that basic tenet. We won’t get into the many reasons officials give for withholding information — the list runs the gamut. It ranges from simple ignorance on one end to corruption sometimes found on the other end.

Often, though, it comes down to officials simply not understanding that this information already belongs to the people and government officials are not privileged with the right to block the release of public information.

So, yes, we will go to the mat and fight for that information when we believe it is wrongly being withheld. We do this on behalf of our readers. We do this because it is the right thing to do.

One more note about Sunshine Week: We don’t just observe it in the media.

We invite all Americans to celebrate that we live in the greatest nation on Earth, and the reason it is the greatest is that it gives ordinary people the right to know how and why their government is operating as it is. The type of access that we enjoy, as Americans, is unprecedented. It deserves to be celebrated.

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