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Sunshine laws are rules that allow reporters and anyone else to attend public meetings. The name comes from the feeling of "shining sun" upon the government because information was no longer kept hidden in the dark.

Open meetings that are required to be public are city council and town board meetings, school board meetings, and state commissions. These organizations fall under the category of legislative units. State and national legislatures are also required to meet regularly at designated places and times that are announced to the public, including any journalist.

The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to release their information to news agencies if requested. However, private information and confidential files are exempt from being released, in order to avoid breaking privacy laws. This act was established in 1966 and signed by president Lyndon Johnson.

Some big issues that this law has allowed journalists to expose are: the FBI harrassing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the CIA illegally monitoring political group experimenting with mind-controlling drugs on prisoners, and information about poisoned water from nuclear power plants.


Sources:

Mass Media in a Changing World by George Rodman

About.com - US Freedom of Information Act

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