The Hinsdalean - Community journalism the way it was meant to be

Sunshine Week shines light on truth in dark times

 

Last updated 3/9/2022 at 1:40pm | View PDF



It was widely reported last week that the Russian government had enacted new laws to repress internal opposition to its military invasion of Ukraine. Among them was a decree criminalizing independent war reporting, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of spreading “fake news” about the Russian armed forces.

Since the law took effect March 4, respected news organizations such as the BBC, CNN and the New York Times have felt compelled to suspend their operations in Russia out of fear of being arrested and locked up under the harsh edict.

“These new laws are part of Russia’s ruthless effort to suppress all dissent and make sure the population does not have access to any information that contradicts the Kremlin’s narrative about the invasion of Ukraine,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

As someone else once astutely observed, “The first casualty of war is truth.”

As the dark forces of censorship and persecution seem to gain ground in parts of our world, bastions of truth and transparency continue to be beacons of hope. The week of March 13-19 celebrates that unrelenting pursuit of truth with Sunshine Week, an annual initiative launched in 2005 to promote open government and push back against excessive official secrecy.

Created by the former American Society of News Editors — now the News Leaders Association — the nonpartisan observance advocates for access to public information and underscores the importance of transparency for communities and their citizens. After all, it’s your right to know.

Freedom of information isn’t just a press issue. It is a cornerstone of democracy, enlightening and empowering people to play an active role in their government at all levels. Laws like Illinois’ Open Meetings Act exist to encourage public officials to use their authority honestly, make government more efficient and serve as a check against abuse of power.

Living in a state and near a city that each have earned decades-long, ignominious distinction for corruption, back-room dealing and federal indictments, Hinsdale residents can be forgiven for regarding government through a jaundiced eye. At The Hinsdalean, we have, however, been heartened by the steps local bodies have taken over the years toward greater openness, thanks in part to technological advances.

When the paper started, full board packets were not posted online. Now they are. In addition, the websites for the Village of Hinsdale as well as school districts 181 and 86 each offer quick links to general interest items that anyone can access without having to file a Freedom of Information request. At https://www.villageofhinsdale.org, access is through the “Village Transparency” link under the “Government” drop-down menu. Visitors to https://www.d86.hinsdale86.org, can click on “Transparency” at the top, while those searching at https://www.d181.org, can go to “Open Book.”

The crisis unfolding in Ukraine is horrifying and chilling. And the brutal crackdown on protesters in Russia is also dispiriting, although not surprising. May this difficult chapter serve as a wake-up call everywhere of the need to keep the powerful from operating in their self-serving black holes by keeping the lights of liberation on.

 
 

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