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 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. This year presents an extraordinary opportunity for all of us to give serious thought to right to know.
International 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 us 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 or to curtail access. International RTK Day is a time to think seriously about what’s happening not just in the political sphere but also 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.
It is inspiring to realize in a tangible way that nations around the globe are exploring the right to know. We can learn from others about barriers faced and the ways in which they have created regulatory, legal and educational solutions to enhance accessibility.
International RTK Day reminds us to examine those Jeffersonian and Madisonian principles. A look at the experience of other nations may enlighten us about the challenges they face, the implications for this nation, and the reason that the recognition of International Right to Know Day brings to the fore a host of issues we ignore at our own peril.
Note: Much of today’s post was shared on this blog some years ago – The times suggest that it bears repeating.