The Upside-Down World (Editorial)

The General Assembly is at it again, taking away your right to know something just because someone somewhere might make improper use of the information.

This time the information being denied is that of minors who are involved in traffic accidents. It seems that the infamous runners that unethical chiropractors employ to round up customers — an odious but lucrative practice that Arkansas Business has reported on in detail — are preying on even underage individuals named in police traffic reports.

So instead of telling chiropractors that they can’t do that anymore, the Arkansas Senate unanimously approved SB225, which requires the names of minors to be redacted from police reports. Only parents and legal guardians will be able to obtain an unredacted report.

That sounds fine, right? These are kids, and their privacy should be protected, right? But consider this: What if the texting driver who slammed into your car was a 16-year-old minor? You and your insurance company certainly will have no need to know that kid’s name, right? What if the car that drives through the front window of your business is being driven by a 17-year-old? It will be against the law for you to find out his name from the police who work the accident.

The news organizations that make up the FOI Coalition are, of course, fighting yet another attack on the public’s right to know. But the public that the Freedom of Information Act was designed to protect seems all too willing to be kept in the dark.

There will always be someone with a good reason to keep government information from the public. But you don’t want to buy a house if you can’t find out what your neighbors paid. You don’t want to hire an employee if you can’t find out whether he has a criminal record. You don’t want to extend credit to someone if you can’t learn whether he has availed himself of his right to bankruptcy protection.