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IJA, SPJ FOI and IMFA encourage tribal officials to commit to the 2024 Sunshine Week Open Indigenous Governments Proclamation/Pledge


Jodi Rave Spotted Bear, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Chair and Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance Executive Director, jodi@imfreedomalliance.org
Sterling Cosper, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Co-Chair and Indigenous Journalists Association Membership Manager, scosper@naja.com
Claire Regan, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Co-Chair, clairemarieregan@gmail.com
Kim Tsuyuki, SPJ Communications Specialist, ktsuyuki@hq.spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS - In recognition of Sunshine Week, the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee, the Indigenous Journalists Association and the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance present this pledge to encourage tribal government officials to commit to transparency on behalf of their citizens and outline specific measures to reach this goal.

Sunshine Week is a reminder to take action and identify local, state, federal and tribal open government shortcomings. This year, we are asking citizens to send the proclamation to public officials who are encouraged to pledge and initiate specific improvements in local, state or tribal law and practice.

Section 1
WHEREAS, transparent tribal governments and a robust independent Indigenous press are fundamental to tribal sovereignty by ensuring fair elections, and Indigenous citizens maintaining oversight of their tribal nations and
WHEREAS, true self-determination is not just defined by government-to-government relationships between tribes and colonial governments, but also each individual Indigenous citizens' right to determine the direction of their tribal government with the assistance of and right to open information to inform their determinations; and
WHEREAS, an open and accessible government is vital to establishing and maintaining the people’s trust and confidence in their government and in the government’s ability to serve its citizens effectively; and
WHEREAS, the protection of every person’s right of access to public records and government meetings is a high priority of (name of governmental unit), and
WHEREAS, the (name of governmental unit) is committed to openness and transparency in all aspects of its operations and seeks to set a standard in this regard; and
NOW, THEREFORE, the (name of governmental unit) commits during this Sunshine Week, and throughout the year 2024 to work diligently to enhance Indigenous citizens’ access to their government’s records and information, to increase information provided online and electronically, and to ensure that all meetings of deliberative bodies under its jurisdiction, and their committees, are fully noticed and open to tribal citizens. Overall, Indigenous governments should be constitutionally obliged to protect press sovereignty.

The measures below are presented as examples and should be tailored to the transparency needs of your government and community. They should be as specific as possible and should be enacted within the coming year.

Section 2
TOWARD THAT END, the (name of governmental unit) directs that:
• The (fill in appropriate government official or office, such as county executive or general counsel) make recommendations within 90 days to the (name of government unit), based on public input, for strengthening transparency in our government. The recommendations should focus on actions that can be accomplished within one year of the date of this memorandum.
• All meetings of (name of governmental unit), its committees and subcommittees, and any board or agency created by (name of governmental unit) should be properly noticed and open to the public.
• All agencies, departments, and units of (name of governmental unit) accept, as a minimum, information requests submitted by the following methods: phone, mail (or its equivalent), over-the-counter, and online.
• A schedule of charges for copies of such records is established that does not exceed the actual cost.
• All agencies, departments, and units of (name of governmental unit) respond to all such requests for information within the number of business days as required by law. If the request is complex and the response deadline cannot reasonably be met, the requester should be so advised within the response deadline and provided with an anticipated final response date. Existing transparency laws vary from tribe to tribe. Many are silent on a specific response time, leaving it to the courts to determine what might be “reasonable.” Most that are specific require a response within two to five days.
• All agencies, departments, and units of (name of governmental unit) keep a log of each submitted request and the results thereby showing, at a minimum, the date the request was received; a summary of the request; the nature of the response (partial or full grant, denial); the number of elapsed days until a response is rendered and until the records are made available, if different; an indicator to denote if no records were available; the name of the requestor (when furnished); the requester’s email address (when furnished); and the staff member(s) responsible for processing the request. Submissions that provide no method of response must still be logged in but otherwise may be ignored.
• All agencies, departments, and units of (name of governmental unit) post onsite and online:
• Records that have been the subject of repeated requests or are likely to be subject to repeated requests. A record shall qualify as “subject to repeated requests” when it has been requested by different individuals or organizations with no formal connection to each other at least three times within the past twelve months.

[Without suggesting that any particular records are more important than others, here are two examples of records that immediately come to mind because of their importance and because they are regularly sought by requestors:]
• All contracts entered into that exceed $5,000, including details of the work to be carried out, estimated completion date and cost, and the name of the vendor(s) along with the amount, date, etc. of all checks issued.
• Post online and onsite, at least 72 hours in advance of formal consideration, copies of all budget requests and a copy of the final budget, with any justifications or other explanatory materials submitted as a part of the decision-making process.

Agree by filling out this form and please use your government email address for verification purposes.

About Sunshine Week
Sunshine Week was launched in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors and has grown into an enduring initiative to promote open government. Last December, the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications took over the coordination of Sunshine Week. SPJ is a proud partner of Sunshine Week 2024.

About SPJ
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.

About IJA
The Indigenous Journalists Association’s mission is centered on the idea that accurate and contextual reporting about Indigenous people and communities is necessary to overcome biases and stereotypes portrayed in popular and mainstream media. Originally formed as the Native American Press Association in 1983, the organization has grown from just a handful of reporters to a membership of nearly 900, which includes Indigenous journalists, associates, educators and partners.

About IMFA
The Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit media organization with articles of incorporation in North Dakota. IMFA’s mission is to improve the civil liberties of American Indians through research, advocacy, and nation building. The vision is a world where democracy thrives for Indigenous people through an independent press.


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