Tester Recognized as Advocate for Public Access to Information

by Jackie Yamanaka, MTPR

The American Library Association awarded U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, its James Madison Award in recognition for his advocacy for government transparency and public access to government information. The award coincides with National Sunshine Week, March 12-18, 2017, that promotes the public’s right to know.

Immediate ALA past President Sari Feldman said librarians are among the professions that advocate for public access to information.

“In an age of information uncertainty librarians around the world, and certainly members of the press, are keenly aware that access to public information is vulnerable,” Feldman said. “Much has been said about fake news, but today we recognize that forces within and without threaten the access to government information that supports real news.”

She said librarians around the world are working to rescue federal data sets and other information in the public record.

“It is our professional core value. This is what we believe in and stand for,” she said.

Feldman said the ALA is recognizing Tester because from day one in the U.S. Senate he has modeled transparency and worked to improve public access to campaign donations and government information.

In accepting the award at the Newseum, Tester said he learned the importance of government accessibility and transparency when he was a school board member in Big Sandy.

“In a new era of fake news and alternative facts we need the American Library Association more than ever to be pushing for truth, for more transparency and access across all levels of government,” Tester said. “We also need a free and independent press to hold all of us in government accountable to the people.”

This was the 29th time the ALA handed out the James Madison Award.

Tester said he will continue to press for legislation to give the public access to their elected officials and their government.

“Access to your documents that have to do with how your money is spent, the decisons that are made on behalf of you about the policy of your government” is what freedom of information is all about said Gene Polincinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center. He said that is the purpose of Sunshine Week.

The Montana Newspapers Association, the Montana Broadcasters Association, and the Montana Freedom of Information Hotline are recognizing Sunshine Week March 17, 2017 in the state Capitol Rotunda from 10 am to 2 pm. The Montana Legislature is in session.