I was thrilled today to see that, as one of his first official acts of business, President Obama signed an executive order that effectively reversed eight years of government secrecy by interpreting the Freedom of Information Act as favoring disclosure and transparency by default.
Remember, we should all cheer this, because citizens are the media, too — you don’t have to be a newspaper journalist to use FOIA. Here’s a reminder from Dan Gillmor in the package I edited on citizen journalism: Freedom of information: It’s for everyone.
Washington Post: New Obama Orders on Transparency, FOIA Requests.
CNET News.com: Obama to .gov agencies: More Internet openness
Broadcasting & Cable: Media Praise Obama FOIA Fixes.
Business & Media Institute: Obama ‘Openness’ Announcement Greeted with Cheers in CNBC Studio Says Anchor.
Here’s an excerpt from the FOIA memo (and scroll down for the full memo):
The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears… All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.