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NM's Udall Defends, Celebrates Free Press in U.S. Senate

Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, shared his concerns with fellow senators about President Trump's adversarial relationship with the news media. (YouTube)
Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, shared his concerns with fellow senators about President Trump's adversarial relationship with the news media. (YouTube)
March 16, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall took President Donald Trump to task on the U.S. Senate floor Wednesday over his treatment of reporters and news organizations.

Udall shared some of the history of journalism with fellow senators, and spoke about why a free press is crucial to a functioning democracy. His statement came during Sunshine Week, an annual observance of America's open government and free press.

Stewart Mizell III is an executive with USA Today and president of the American Society of News Editors, the group that founded Sunshine Week.

"It's a week-long celebration of a true right that Americans have to get access to meetings, to records, to data - at every level of government,” Mizell said of the event.

He said his group is happy that Sen. Udall decided to add his voice to, "thousands of Americans who believe that open government is their right.”

In his presentation, Sen. Udall warned that a government that shrouds itself in secrecy can become an oligarchy.

Mizell explained that the purpose of Sunshine Week is to recognize the role and importance of the news media in getting information to the public about the workings of government. This year's theme is, "It's Your Right to Know."

"It's a critical element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances,” Mizell said. "You don't have an opportunity to know what to petition unless you understand what government is doing, and exercise your right as a citizen to find out."

He said the point of Sunshine Week is also to reinforce the need for a well-informed population, and that's what prompted the American Society of News Editors to establish Sunshine Week in 2005.

Brett McPherson, Public News Service - NM