July 4, 1776 was the day America declared its independence, but December 15, 1791 was the day we declared our freedom.
It was on that day that the 13 former British colonies ratified the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment. Our right to speak out about the government was enshrined in law. Freedom of the press, long denied by government, was guaranteed.
While the First Amendment gave citizens powerful tools to hold their government accountable, there was more work to do. In the 1960s, the federal Freedom of Information Act, and similar state laws that followed, made it clear that government has an obligation to be open and transparent. But the framers of the Bill of Rights were the trendsetters, and their message was clear:
We the People are in charge.
Letting in the sunshine
Sunshine Week — March 12-18, 2017 — was hosted by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, two organizations that play a crucial rule in advocating for press freedom and government transparency.
The first ever Sunshine Week was in 2005, and it was established to coincide with James Madison’s birthday and National Freedom of Information Day, both on March 16. Madison, of course, proposed the Bill of Rights and is known as the “Father of the Constitution.”
To mark the special occasion, Watchdog.org published a series of stories examining government transparency issues:
The 1791 Sunshine Initiative
In honor of the ratification of the First Amendment and the great Americans who set the stage for government transparency, we are proud to announce the launch of our 1791 Sunshine Initiative.
Throughout Sunshine Week and beyond, we are asking our supporters and readers to commit to donating at least $17.91 per month online in support of the First Amendment and freedom of the press.
Whether it’s exposing secret government meetings, uncovering shady dealings, or revealing wasteful spending, our Watchdog.org reporters spend each day letting in the sunshine. But they can only do it with your help.
We hope you’ll consider making a donation today to support our crucial work.
Here’s what our journalists have to say