Celebrating Freedom of Information Day on March 16

Closeup of a replica of U.S. Constitution documentTransparency, individual rights, and freedom of information are essential tenets of the federal government. James Madison, widely regarded as the Father of the Constitution, promoted and advocated for these ideas during the creation of the federal democratic republic unique to the United States. Freedom of Information Day is observed on March 16 as a reminder of his commitment to these values and their importance today.

Informed citizens and open government processes are vital to maintain a system where elected representatives and federal agencies are held accountable for their decisions and actions. FOIA.gov is a portal for anyone to request information from government agencies according to the Freedom of Information Act passed by Congress in 1966. The site provides guidance for information seekers and an overview of the process. It includes an index of federal government agencies and nine exemptions that cannot be filled through a FOIA request. Additionally, the National Archives offers some best practices for requestors.

The American Library Association identifies and recognizes groups who perpetuate James Madison’s vision for access to government information and the public’s right to know. On Freedom of Information Day, the ALA presents the James Madison Award and the Eileen Cooke State & Local Madison Award to these champions and advocates.

Over 200 years ago, James Madison understood the significance of an informed populace and transparent government. Today, many groups and individuals acknowledge the value in upholding these principles on March 16 and throughout the year.

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