In Sunshine Week Declaration Condemning Threats to Openness, Coalition Warns that Laws and Norms Protecting Open Government are Being Eclipsed

Monday, March 12, 2018

READ DECLARATION

Leading Organizations Call for More Accountability and Transparency, While Expressing Concern about Growing Culture of Secrecy in Washington  

WASHINGTON – A coalition of leading organizations that fight for transparency and openness in government released a powerful declaration today warning Americans about escalating attacks on the public’s right to know. The organizations shared the statement, A Condemnation of Threats to Openness, Ethics and Accountability, with the White House and Members of Congress on the first weekday of Sunshine Week (March 11 – 17), to demonstrate how laws and norms that ensure Americans have access to information on their government are being eroded and eclipsed by a growing culture of secrecy in Washington.

“Sunshine Week is traditionally an annual celebration of transparency, openness, and the public’s right to know,” said Open the Government Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg. “However, this year more than 30 organizations and individuals thought it was equally important to raise awareness about unrelenting attacks on these fundamental values. We decided to push back and warn people about a growing culture of secrecy that threatens freedom of information and our ability to hold public servants accountable.”

A Condemnation of Threats to Openness, Ethics and Accountability, vehemently declares the groups’ opposition to: Attacks on Truth and Truth-Tellers, Affronts to the Public’s Right to Know, Increases in Government Corruption, and Threats to Constitutional Checks and Balances.

According to the declaration: “Those in the highest levels of government have moved far beyond previous efforts to evade transparency, engaging in an unprecedented, systemic endeavor to undermine the basic norms of disclosure, accountability and truthfulness. The Trump Administration has undermined the role of the press, and uses misinformation to thwart the public’s understanding of its actions. Furthermore, the oversight function of Congress has been weakened, if not trivialized, by partisanship. By devaluing openness and accountability, those in power today are diminishing the public trust in government and eroding the foundations of our democracy.

We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms actions taken by the Executive Branch and Congress to undermine the public’s right to know whether public officials are furthering the interests of the American people, rather than pursuing private gain.” 

The increasing attacks on transparency, accountability and the media have created a sub-theme this year, Eclipse of the Sunshine Week, underscored by the Twitter hashtags, #SunshineWeek, #Eclipse. Throughout the week, the organizations and individuals that signed onto the declaration will be discussing the new challenges to openness in events, forums, and on social media.    

Additional efforts to highlight how the federal government is headed in the wrong direction on issues of open government and transparency include:   

  • A dramatic projection on the walls of the Justice Department on Saturday evening, illustrating the attacks on openness and transparency, the media, and freedom of information.  
  • Open the Government Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg led a panel of journalists and experts at a Newseum forum on Friday, discussing the obstacles and challenges to obtaining information in contemporary Washington. At the event, OTG released its new report, Closing Democracy’s Window: The Growing Culture of Secrecy in Washington and the Erosion of the Public’s Right to Know, which closely reviews transparency and openness in the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Members of several organizations stood in front of the White House wearing eclipse glasses, to vividly show the threat to transparency and other norms that are essential for our democracy. 

Open the Government is an inclusive, nonpartisan coalition that works to strengthen our democracy and empower the public by advancing policies that create a more open, accountable, and responsive government. 

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