Papers in Mexico Will Try Own Version of ‘Sunshine Week’

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Mexican newspapers will conduct their own version of
America?s three-year-old Sunshine Week campaign for
open government, a group of journalists announced at
the annual meeting of the Inter American Press
Association (IAPA) in Mexico City Sunday.

The campaign, Mexico Abierto, or Open Mexico, is
urging Mexican newspapers and other news media to
devote the week to talking up the importance of open
government in editorials, news stories, features,
cartoons and other ways.

Mexico Abierto will take place the same week in 2007
as the U.S. Sunshine Week, March 11-17.

Mexico has had a federal ?transparency? law since
2002, and many states have adopted their own freedom
of information (FOI) laws. But at the IAPA conference,
Gonzalo Leano Reyes of the Jalisco daily Ocho Columnas
warned that states are now moving backwards in their
laws, imposing new restrictions on access. At the same
time, the controversial presidential election has
shaken Mexicans? confidence — never strong — in
public institutions.

?In this critical moment in Mexican history, the
transparency law used strongly by the press could well
build public confidence in institutions,? said Alonso
Lujambo, president of the Federal Institution for
Access to Public Information. ?This is a tool for
investigative journalists (to uncover) information,
because secrecy is one of the most corrosive forces in
a government.?

Lujambo also argued that the Mexico Abierto week could
be a catalyst for a further transformation of Mexico?s
press and democracy.

In developing its open government campaign, Mexico
Abierto has had considerable help from the American
Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), which three
years ago began conducting on a national level the
Sunshine Week idea first developed by Florida daily
newspapers in the wake of the 9/11 terror bombings and
political backlash against government transparency.
Journalist Rosanna Fuentes-Berain, one of the leaders
of Mexico Abierto, told IAPA the ASNE campaign was
the inspiration for the week.

Patrick A. Yack of the Florida Times-Union in
Jacksonville told IAPA publishers that Sunshine Week
was ?a very powerful vision that has taken root in the
United States and that now has spread to Mexico, and
that I hope you take home to your publications.?

Yack said this year?s U.S. Sunshine Week is making a
special push to involve Spanish-language newspapers
and broadcast.

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