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Monday marked a golden anniversary for the Freedom of Information Act. 

July 4 not only marks the birthday of our country, but also the date that landmark piece of government transparency legislation was signed into law. 

FOIA was signed into law 50 years ago, on July 4, 1966. 

The law was designed to keep citizens in the know about their government. The federal FOIA — and subsequent state laws — have shined considerable light on governmental bodies at all levels.  

Though, even armed with the law, those seeking public information have faced numerous obstacles over the decades by some government officials who have gone to great lengths to avoid turning over public documents. In that regard, transparency in government has improved, but is still a work in progress. 

The Southern Illinoisan, as well as countless other newspapers, regularly accesses information about the activities of governmental entities funded by taxpayer dollars through use of the federal and state open records laws. It allows reporters to more effectively serve their watchdog role.

But all citizens have the right to obtain public records from their government. Exposure of wrongdoing is often led by concerned citizens who understand their rights under the act. 

Here's a few facts about the law, compiled by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. 

• Illinois passed a FOIA law of its own 18 years later, in 1984 

• The federal FOIA was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson 

• It was championed by a congressman from California, the late, former U.S. Rep. John Moss who served from 1953 to 1978. 

molly.parker@thesouthern.com

618-351-5079

On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​

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Molly Parker is general assignment and investigative projects reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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