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Last December's shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School, among the most horrific crimes in Connecticut history, reverberated across the country and around the globe.
With so much raw emotion focused on the massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Newtown school, as well as the shooting deaths of the alleged gunman and his mother, it is not surprising that law-enforcement authorities have been taking their time preparing a report into the criminal investigation.
Now that more than six months have passed, though, the long delay raises questions: What is taking so long? What don't officials want the public to know? Why the need for secrecy, considering the identity of the alleged gunman, Adam Lanza, has never been in doubt. In addition, so much information about his troubled life already has been published, along with detailed accounts of the shootings, the victims and the aftermath.
Apparently the greatest worry has revolved around graphic photographs of the victims, with authorities fearful that once released they would find their way onto vulgar, exploitative websites.
So great was this fear that the state legislators passed a law - after secret talks with top officials including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy - authorizing a blanket prohibition on the release of and access to photos of homicide victims.
The Day and other media representatives have challenged this law, including most recently the Society of Professional Journalists, whose national president, Sonny Albarado and Connecticut president, Jodie Mozdzer Gil, wrote a letter to Gov. Malloy a letter questioning the secret talks leading up to the legislation.
"The Society condemns the creation of this legislation outside the normal, transparent process of public hearings and debate. And we deplore the attempt to use the tragic events of Dec. 14 as an excuse to close off access to records that are otherwise available to the public," they wrote.
This newspaper agrees. While we are pleased that the legislature is creating a task force "to consider and make recommendations regarding the balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public's right to know," we continue to maintain that police have taken far too long to complete and release their Sandy Hook findings.
However gruesome the report, the government must not be given the power of censorship. Advocates of the First Amendment would have it no other way.
The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.