We live in a day and age when information is readily available at the touch of a button, whether it be through a smartphone or computer.

The thought of any entity trying to restrict the public’s ability to stay informed is something I will never stand for, which is one reason I became a journalist in the first place.

It became public last week that the United States Department of Agriculture may or may not have intentionally released an order for its scientists to prevent releasing any of their work to the public. Such information, according to a report from the agency, included fact sheets, news releases, photographs and social media content.

That is unacceptable, and I would like to think many of you feel the same way. Luckily, it was reported later that the gag order should have never been issued and was “hereby rescinded,” according to an article from The Hill.

“This internal email was released without Departmental direction, and prior to Departmental guidance being issued,” the USDA said in a statement. “(Agricultural Research Service) will be providing updated direction to its staff. ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public.”

Another example comes to mind, which I strongly disagree with, is President Donald Trump’s administration instituting a media blackout for employees of the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce and the Interior.

Trump’s administration has banned press releases and social media posts, according to an article on Fox News’ website. Apparently, the prohibitions came as the EPA moved to delay implementation of at least 30 environmental rules finalized in the now former President Barack Obama’s last few months in office. Fox News reports staffers in the EPA’s public affairs have been told to forward all inquiries to the Office of Administration and Resources Management.

“Not the most inspiring time at EPA right now but we’re fighters,” an EPA staffer said in the Fox News article.

Doug Ericksen, communications director for President Trump’s transition team at the EPA, noted in a CBS article he believed the blackout would be lifted by the end of the week, but as of Sunday it still remains in effect.

A temporary freeze on grants to states was lifted Thursday, which I believe is a step in the right direction.

However long this ban may be, I find any attempt to withhold information truly concerning, regardless of its source.

Political views aside, we all have a right to stay informed.

Jeremy Nash is a reporter and staff writer for the News-Herald. Contact him at 865-986-6581 or by email atjeremy.nash@news-herald.net.