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The ground rules seem to have been set concerning the sexual assault allegations against nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: we will take you to a state where more than 60 thousand kids are chronically absent; plus the rural digital divide a two-fold problem for Kentucky.

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Freedom of Information: Keeping MI Citizens in Driver's Seat

The Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the right to access information from the federal government. (Pixabay)
The Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the right to access information from the federal government. (Pixabay)
March 16, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - Today is Freedom of Information Day, part of Sunshine Week, which highlights the need to ensure that government isn't kept behind closed doors.

The annual observance began in 2003 as a reminder of the power of the First Amendment and the importance of transparency and accountability among elected leaders, law enforcement, the court system and all other public bodies, said Jane Briggs-Bunting, president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government.

"You cannot have a government that's a democratic functioning government that doesn't have its citizens right in the driver's seat and knowing what's going on," she said. "If you don't have freedom of information. You don't have accountability. You don't have transparency. Very soon, you won't have a free democratic country."

The Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1966, essentially giving citizens the right to access information from the federal government. It's a crucial tool for the media as Americans' right to know, said Briggs-Bunting, adding that the Flint water crisis is just one example of its importance.

"Without the effort, frankly, of a reporter at the Flint Journal, a guy named Ron Fonger, and Curt Guyette of the ACLU, this story never would have gotten the national and international coverage it's getting, and now the rush to solve the problem," she said. "This problem went on for two years."

The federal government processed a record 769,000 Freedom of Information Act requests in 2015 and reduced its backlog of pending requests by about 35 percent.

Civic groups, news organizations and libraries in Michigan are among those holding events this week to build awareness of the importance of open government in American society.

More information is online at foia.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI