The Maine Press Association, along with the Maine Broadcasters Association and the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, have joined other trade, academic and civil liberty organizations around the country in signing and sending a joint statement to state and national governmental groups that emphasizes the right to government emergency transparency and public access.
The letter grew from the National Freedom of Information Coalition, a Florida-based nonprofit that promotes press freedom, legislative and administrative reforms and litigation to ensure open, transparent and accessible state and local governments and public institutions.
“One hundred and thirty-two organizations representing diverse constituencies and political ideologies agree that our democracy and democratic practices should not be obstructed in the interest of streamlining deliberations and decision making by our governing bodies in this time of crisis,” the NFOIC said.
The statement, which can be found in full here, reads in part:
“Government bodies should not opportunistically take advantage of the public’s inability to attend large gatherings to make critical decisions affecting the public’s interest if those decisions can reasonably be postponed. Just as citizens are being asked to defer nonessential travel and errands, so should government agencies defer noncritical policy-making decisions until full and meaningful public involvement can be guaranteed. Where postponement is not realistic, every available measure should be taken to (1) notify the public of meetings of government bodies and how to participate in those meetings remotely, (2) use widely available technologies to maximize real-time public engagement, and (3) preserve a viewable record of proceedings that is promptly made accessible online.”