American jounralists are currently celebrating the first national Sunshine Week, a series of events celebrating Freedom of Information laws, which are often called “sunshine laws” at the state level, particularly in Florida, which some of the best open government laws in the United States.
The project is an outgrowth of Sunshine Sunday, which has been held for four years in Florida. On Sunshine Sunday, American newspapers ran articles and editorial leaders assessing the condition of their states’ respective Freedom of Information laws. Bloggers were encouraged to join in, too.
It’s a particularly important time for bloggers. In Washington Senators John Cornyn and Patrick Leahy are leading efforts to expand Freedom of Information laws through the OPEN Government Act, which would expand the exemption from fees that is currently only available to journalists with an institutional affiliation.
But the details of expenses claimed of the members of the Scottish Parliament? Unlikely. How about getting hold of your son’s medical records after he died while in a military barracks? Nope. Or to find out what advice the Government got from its senior legal advisor before going to war in Iraq? Fuggeddaboudit — at least till after the election.
If, like the Sunday Express you make use of Canada’s FOIA, you can also learn about the the levels of asbestos found in former Royal Navy submarines.
Or you could run a story about MoD plans to discredit John Large, a scientist about to blow the whistle on the safety of subs’. In the MoD documents that Mark Howarth of the Sunday Express Scottish edition cites is this passage:
“Probably best to burn this email before the Freedom of Information Act kicks in.”
And all those are your British FOIA stories for Blogshine Sunday 2005.