Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has been chosen to receive the John Peter Zenger Award for outstanding contributions to press freedom and the people's right to know, the University of Arizona announced last week. Sen. Leahy is only the second politician to receive the award since its creation by the university in 1994. The award is named after the18th century New York publisher who was tried on charges of seditious libel in 1753 when he criticized the British government. Zenger's acquittal was a landmark event that helped to pave the way for America's press freedom.
Leahy was cited by the university for his leadership in expanding access by the press and public to government records and for writing a law enacted in 1996 to expand Internet access to information held by federal agencies.
We join our northern New England neighbors of all political persuasions in applauding the senator. We hope many other politicians will recognize the significance of this award - and also realize that when the press is denied access to government documents, the public is denied access to government documents.