Sunday, April 27, 2003

Censorship At The Source: The Worst Kind
Maximum access to government information is a fundamental right and a shared responsibility of both the press and the public. Despite that, freedom of information is in deep trouble today. And because it is in deep trouble, democracy is in deep trouble.

The public and the press alike must recognize that delay and denial of access to government information is in fact censorship. It is censorship of the most insidious sort because it is censorship at the source.

There may be no more compelling case in America today. We need to protect our civil liberties, including against the ominous Patriot Act. The freedom of information, and the sunshine laws to ensure it, are essential to democracy and accountability. To integrity. Even to market fairness, as only the truly naive will tell you that American foreign policy does not have impacts on the economy or market. Perhaps even worst of all, the reality of secrecy, corruption and suspicious links between industry and government leads to suspicion, distrust and conspiracy thinking in the body politic. In the people. And this only works to divide and weaken us...

It matters because in an environment of secrecy and information suppression, citizens grow increasingly distrustful of their leaders, increasingly unsupportive of decisions made behind closed doors, increasingly suspicious of secrets locked away in files, and increasingly angry at bureaucratic resistance to granting access to even the most routine records.

In such an environment, paranoia and conspiracy theories thrive, and opportunities for improving government policies and practices go begging.

In such an environment, it is not just the dream of democracy but the reality of democracy that begins to shrivel and confront the idea of a slow death.

It's time we start taking responsibility for our freedom and democracy.