Despite a weeklong public awareness campaign by newspapers across the state last month, attempts to pierce Mississippi’s official veil of secrecy continue to be a hit-and-miss endeavor.
Three recent efforts by The Clarion-Ledger to obtain public records from officials in Hinds and Madison counties and Jackson Public Schools met with resistance with the officials claiming unconventional exemptions and trying to put a costly price tag on the information without explaining why.
Jeanni Atkins, executive director of the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information, said Mississippi officials historically have been reluctant to share information with the public and the press. The Legislature is reviewing several measures to strengthen the state’s sunshine laws, but changing attitudes will take longer, she said.
“This culture of secrecy is very ingrained. It’s been very encouraging that some of the new, young legislators are very open to the idea of giving access to the public,” she said.