International Right to Know Day, September 28, has always been a time for me to reflect on how the detailed laws and regulations of states and a nations interconnect and relate somehow to a common theme. We are at times so focused on the local that we fail to see the global sphere in which access to information is a common lynchpin. It seems to me that this year presents an extraordinary opportunity for all of us to reflect on the people’s right to know. The challenges to that right are no longer directly and opaquely political but insidious, possibly more unintentional as overt.
Right to Know Day was organized in 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria, at an international meeting of access advocates. Since then, the RTK recognition “celebrates the right of individuals to access information held by public instruments and reminds of the need and the benefits of a transparent for government.”
As Americans we depend on Jefferson and Madison to articulate and thus assure that right in perpetuity. Still, technology has the extreme and conflicting power to expand and curtail access. This may be a time to think seriously about what’s happening not just in political but in media, regulatory, transnational, archival, distribution, economic and other arenas in which the right to know is at a minimum questioned if not overtly challenged. A recent memo from Media Alliance reminds me of the ways in which the Black and Latino communities are coming together to keep the Internet open and free from discrimination – just one example of the challenges we face.
To me it is inspiring that nations around the globe are exploring the issue of right to know. We can learn from others about the barriers that others are experiencing and the ways in which they have created regulatory, legal and educational solutions to enhance accessibility for all. We have some thinking to do about those Jeffersonian and Madisonian principles. A look at the experience of other nations may enlighten us about the challenges they face, the implications for us, and reason that the recognition of the International Right to Know Day does make a difference that we ignore at our own peril.
To follow what’s happening on the international right to know scene there are scores of options, including these:
http://www.foiadvocates.net/en/right-to-know-day-2011 – clearly the primo source, includes a nice YouTube promo