A presidentially appointed commission has unanimously approved a "Bill of Rights for the Information Age" calling on government agencies to provide "open and uninhibited access" to public information.
The National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, a small, independent federal agency, adopted the eight-point set of principles at a June 29 meeting after a year of work that included two public hearings.
The 15-member commission, composed of Reagan and Bush administration appointees, urged use of the guidelines by all branches of the federal government as well as state and local agencies.
Although public access to federal records has been cut back over the past 10 years, the commission based its policy document on the concept that "public information is information owned by the people and held in trust by the government."
Formally titled "Principles of Public Information," the guidelines say that the federal government "should guarantee the dissemination, reproduction, and redistribution of public information" and should not allow cost to obstruct public access.
In view of the increasing number of computerized records and changing technologies, the commission also said that the government should guarantee the integrity and preservation of public information, regardless of its format, and make sure that it is widely indexed.
Work on the principles was led by commission vice chairman Lee Edwards, an appointee of Ronald Reagan. He said, "We consider these 'Principles' to be a Bill of Rights for the Information Age -- a firm foundation for the policies and programs dealing with public information which will follow."
The commission, created by statute in 1970, has the job of advising Congress and the president on matters relating to national library and information policies and plans.