Press Freedom of Information - Topic

National FOI Day

  • National FOIA Hall of Fame

    National FOI Day is an annual, daylong program of speaking and discussion by specialists in various aspects of freedom of information, updating developments in FOI over the preceding year.

    2008 National FOI Day Conference

  • Sunshine Week events
  • This year’s conference, “Toward a More Open Government: Opportunities & Obstacles,” was held on Friday, March 14, in the Freedom Forum’s Newseum, located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., in the nation’s capital. (The Newseum will formally open April 11.)

    Ronald Collins

    The 10th annual conference, hosted by the First Amendment Center, included noted keynote speakers; more than a dozen national experts discussing new amendments to the federal Freedom of Information Act and access to critical infrastructure information; and presentation of the American Library Association’s annual James Madison awards.

    “In these times of unparalleled secrecy, the ideal of open government is under siege. Hence, the need for a collaborative effort to correct this political malady is great,” said conference host and organizer Ronald Collins of the First Amendment Center. “We are therefore proud to make our contribution to Sunshine Week and to do what we can to further the idea that open government is the best government, the fairest government and the government most likely to honor the right of the people to self-rule.”

    The FOI Day Conference, which brought together access advocates, government officials, lawyers, librarians, journalists, educators and others, was co-sponsored by Sunshine Week and held in cooperation with the American Library Association,, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government and the Sunshine in Government Initiative.

    “One of the most notable aspects of the program Ron Collins assembled this year was that it was able to attract, in near equal numbers, attendees both from the FOI community making requests and from those offices in government agencies responsible for handling those FOI requests,” said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. “It’s the exchange of views, from all sides, that makes FOI Day special, year after year.”

    2008 program agenda


    Conference speakers’ bios

    Conference coverage

    For information from previous National FOI Day programs, see cases & resources.

    FOI Day history

    The idea of a National FOI Day to be observed on March 16 in honor of James Madison’s birthday emerged in the late 1970s. For a number of years, the National Press Club hosted a FOI program on different dates, but that program became subsumed by other interests in the early 1990s.

    In 1993, Paul McMasters convened a “National Freedom of Information Summit” at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, bringing together most of the major players on FOI, right to know and government secrecy. That two-day conference resulted in a report titled “Battling for an Open Government.”

    In 1996, working with the American Society of Newspaper Editors, McMasters convened another summit at the Freedom Forum on FOIA’s 30th anniversary called “Sunshine & Secrecy: The FOIA Turns 30.”

    The first official National FOI Day conference was held at the Freedom Forum on March 16, 1999, and has continued ever since.