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Asked and answered

March 13, 2005

Tom Curley, The Associated Press' president and chief executive officer, discusses the Sunshine Week initiative involving media groups, universities and the American Library Association. More questions and answers appeared in Sunday's Herald-Mail.

Q: Does the enactment of privacy laws in the U.S. hinder FOI access by news organizations?

A: Absolutely. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) and related efforts have affected far more than media. Clergy, the medical community and families have suffered from foolish policy.

Q: Each generation of citizens helps redefine what freedom means in American society. What appears to be the prevailing sentiment of this generation?

A: The United States was attacked, in large part, because of the freedoms it cherishes. The strongest statement we could make to an enemy is to uphold these values.

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Q: Do you consider this point in time to be particularly perilous with regard to the public right to know? If so, why?

A: Yes. We are at a very critical point. Too many reporters are facing jail time for doing exactly what they should. Too many government operatives are classifying records. Power often shifts in subtle ways over decades. The Pentagon, for instance, has more power than ever. Presidents from Washington to Eisenhower have warned against that.

Q: Do media have any special obligation to fight to preserve the public's First Amendment rights if it appears the public supports government efforts toward less openness?

A: We sleep at our peril. We must reach out and work with officials from all branches of government on an ongoing basis. We must question candidates about their attitudes toward open government in editorial boards and public forums. We must report the efforts of those who want to hide information and their motives, and we should celebrate the champions of openness.

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