I had the honor of speaking with a group of leaders from Northern Iraq, who are traveling through America as part of an initiative led by the U.S. State Department and Global Ties ABQ, a nonprofit dedicated to building bridges of international awareness and understanding among the people of New Mexico and emerging leaders from around the world.
The group included professionals from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines: two broadcast news journalists who face great obstacles in reporting objective, accurate news about public business in Iraq; a government official who has been active in setting an example of transparency in a still-secretive nation by releasing budgets and financial statements online; a human rights advocate who works for a non-governmental organization; and an attorney who has been helping to draft the new “access to information” law, which is intended to mirror the Freedom of Information Act in our country.
After briefly explaining the work the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government does and the tenets of Sunshine Laws in New Mexico and the United States, I had the opportunity to listen to questions they raised about transparency and how we implement open government laws in practice.
The human rights advocate was curious to know how we can trust that public information online was actually disseminated and published by the government. I explained our “.gov” website extensions, and he said that was something new that was just now being implemented in Iraq.