Montana panel discusses the struggle for public’s right to know

Phil Drake

A recent panel on freedom of the press and the public’s right to know discussed ongoing efforts of gathering information in Montana, and noted the challenges journalists and the public often face when doing so.

“Without a free press, without the right to know, without the right of free speech and participation, democracy simply cannot survive,” retired Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson said during a Feb. 9 forum he moderated that was sponsored by the Lewis and Clark Library and the League of Women Voters of the Helena Area.

“These rights are absolutely fundamental to our democracy,” he said.

Panelists included Martha Sheehy, who has had a 35-year law career in which she has represented media interests and residents in cases of the constitutional right to know, Nelson said. And also on the panel was Darrell Ehrlick, editor in chief of the digital news outlet Daily Montanan and former editor of the Billings Gazette, who has filed many public information requests. 

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