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Ensuring open and honest government is a bedrock principle of democracy. It can only be attained through the unfettered exchange of information between citizens and their government. A citizen’s right-to-know, sometimes known as freedom of information, fosters accountability, prevents abuses of power and promotes trust in government. Pennsylvania has codified this important right to access government records in Act 3 of 2008, called the Right-to-Know law.
Governor Edward G. Rendell signed the new Right-To-Know law on February 14, 2008 fundamentally changing the way people access public records of their government. The hallmark of this new law, which fully became effective January 1, 2009, is its presumption of openness. For the first time in Pennsylvania history, citizens no longer have to prove that a record is public and that it should be released. Now, a government agency must presume that a record is a public record available for inspection or copying. If the government agency chooses to withhold a record, the agency has the burden to prove – with legal citation – why that record should not be available to the public.