Sunshine Week: Transparency Critical During Public Health Emergency

A letter from Executive Director David Snyder

Dear Friends of the First Amendment,

During times of widespread uncertainty, the public needs a clear picture of what our government is doing. 

Indeed, transparency is much more important in such times, when the government takes on a far greater role in our day-to-day lives. As government power waxes, so too does the possibility that power can be abused. So, I write to you today to remind you of your own power to see, to know and to speak in this time of national crisis. 

It happens that this year, the Sunshine Week movement promoting transparency in government, coincides with the COVID-19 public health emergency. In the spirit of sunshine—and recognizing the uncertainty that surrounds all of us—I wanted to highlight some of the free resources the First Amendment Coalition provides to help aid in your reporting or participation in and understanding of your government.

Here are five tools we want to encourage the public and members of the press to use:

1. Free Legal Hotline

Lawyers answer questions about access to public records and your right to attend and participate in government meetings in California; access to court documents and proceedings; and freedom of speech and freedom of the press protections. Reporters on deadline can also contact us at FAC@firstamendmentcoalition.org and (415) 460-5060 for a rapid response. 

2. Asked & Answered 

Search our database of prior Legal Hotline questions to see if the information you need is at your fingertips. 

3. California Public Records sample letter

Use your updated CPRA sample request letter to ask for records kept by agencies in California. 

4. Federal Freedom of Information Act sample letter

Use our FOIA sample request letter to ask for records kept by federal agencies.

5. Apply for FOI Boot Camp

FAC has launched a new program to provide interactive Freedom of Information training sessions for underserved journalists. 

Remember: All of us, journalist or no, have a right to spread sunshine on our government’s inner workings—a right that is far more important now than it usually is.

These free resources are made possible thanks to supporters like you. Thank you.

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