The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation this week announced a $2 million, three-year grant to support state open government groups in their fight for public records. The money will create the new Knight FOI Fund at the National Freedom of Information Coalition and will be used to help pay for upfront court costs and deposition and filing fees incurred by individuals and groups making freedom of information requests.
The creation of the Knight FOI Fund at the National Freedom of Information Coalition reinforces the foundation’s commitment to the values of open government and the public’s right to know. It also helps to advance the work of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, which has called for greater citizen access to government-held information.
Also on the open government front this week is a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Obama’s Fight Against Secrecy, by Jon Wiener. Wiener reviews President Obama’s new executive order that replaces the Bush-era policy on Classified National Security Information with a new one designed to curtail government secrecy. Wiener concludes that, while a step in the right direction, tweaking the present classification and declassification system may not be enough. What’s needed, as the Knight Commission has identified, is new thinking about news and information as a necessary step to sustaining democracy in the digital age.
When he took office almost exactly one year ago, President Obama called on those working in his administration to adopt this new way of thinking about information and government. The recently launched Open Government Directive (about which we’ve blogged previously here and here) is designed to advance the same goals.
Projects such as the Knight FOI Fund and the many FOI activities that it will support around the country are important elements to sustaining a robust public conversation on the importance of information and government transparency. A robust and sustained public conversation is the path to adopting new thinking on the information issue.
To read the White House blog post about the President’s new order, Promoting Openness and Accountability by Making Classification a Two-Way Street, click here.