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Congress shall make 
no law respecting an establishment of  religion, 
or prohibiting the free 
exercise thereof; or 
abridging the freedom  of speech, or of the press; 
or the right of the people peaceably  to assemble, 
and to petition the 
Government for a 
redress  of grievances.


2017 MAJOR 


Boston Globe logo







Vermont Ends Delay on Public Release of Lawsuit Documents  | VTDigger 4.25.17  The  New England First Amendment Coalition celebrated the state's order in a news release Tuesday. "This is a win for open government. Vermonters have a right to know about lawsuits filed in their courts and to have timely access to those documents," said the group's executive director, Justin Silver, in a statement.

NEFAC Applauds Vermont Decision to Make Lawsuit Filings Immediately Available | Caledonian Record 4.25.17 "The old provision of secret files, even when there had been a hearing, is just one of several outdated policies," said Michael Donoghue, NEFAC's vice president and a former Burlington Free Press staff writer. "Our coalition urged the Vermont Attorney General's Office not to waste tax dollars trying to defend this policy when Vermont was the only state doing it this way."

NH 'Ballot Selfies' Remain Legal as U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review | ACLU 4.3.17 In this case, Snapchat, Inc., the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the New England First Amendment Coalition, and the Keene Sentinel all filed amicus briefs in support of the ACLU-NH's position that this ban is unconstitutional.

NEFAC's Justin Silverman Discussing First Amendment, Journalism (audio) | WPRO 3.25.17

Celebrating Your Right to Know at Nashua Gathering | InDepthNH 3.17.17 The right-to-know evening at the Hunt Memorial Building was co-sponsored by The Telegraph of Nashua, and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Local Lawyer Leads New England First Amendment Coalition | Community Advocate 3.13.17 Silverman joined the NEFAC board in 2010, and became its executive director in 2014. "NEFAC is an advocate for the First Amendment and the public's right to know. We seek to educate everyone - journalists and non-journalists alike - about their rights under the First Amendment. Much of our work is for the benefit of journalists because they are often the ones using freedom of information laws to obtain records and educate communities. But we provide resources to everyone. We're most concerned about threats to the press, free speech and the public's right to know."

Attacks on the Media Only Making Them Stronger | Roger Williams University 3.5.17 Jon Keller, political analyst for WBZ-TV, welcomed people to the New England First Amendment Coalition awards ceremony on Feb. 24 in Boston, saying: "Ladies, gentlemen, fellow enemies of the people - glad you could make it out today." Far from intimidating journalists with his attacks from the bully pulpit, President Donald J. Trump has lit a fire in the belly of the news industry. And ironically, his attempts to weaken the nation's media could end up making them stronger.

Exercising First Amendment Rights is a Team Sport | Roger Williams University 3.1.17 At a New England First Amendment Coalition event on Feb. 24, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan began her keynote address by thanking the many journalism students in attendance, including eight students from Roger Williams University. "I admire the fact that you are making the foray into our somewhat treacherous waters at this particular time," Sullivan said. "We need you more than ever."

Recipients Call for Relentless Pursuit, Defense of the Truth | NENPA 2.26.17 With new threats to the First Amendment, journalism's role is more important than ever, Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post, told those attending the seventh annual New England First Amendment Coalition awards luncheon Friday, Feb. 24, in Boston.

A Change of Heart on White House Leaks | The Westerly Sun 2.27.17 NEFAC's Justin Silverman said, "Once the public has lost faith in the Fourth Estate, there is nothing to separate fact from fiction, truth from propaganda. Yes, we need to demand high standards and integrity from our press corps. But at the same time, we need to discard hollow accusations of 'fake news' and petty grievances with coverage. There's too much at stake to consider every critical news story as the work of dishonest politically driven reporters."

Rants and Raves (video) | Beat the Press 2.24.17
Northeastern University professor Dan Kennedy discusses 2017 New England First Amendment Awards honoree Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post.

TGIF: 21 Things To Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media | RI Public Radio 2.24.17 Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, 'President Trump's continued attacks on the media undermine the value of journalism in our country. A reporter's job isn't to pat the president on the back, but to instead pursue the truth, regardless of how it reflects on an administration. As the saying goes, democracy dies in darkness. Trump seems intent on discrediting the very people we rely on to shine light in those dark corners of government.'

Sun Journal Receives First Amendment Award | Sun Journal 2.25.17 The Sun Journal was awarded the Michael Donoghue First Amendment Award by the New England First Amendment Coalition on Friday. The award was given to the Lewiston newspaper during the annual New England Newspaper and Press Association convention. The freedom of information award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work that protects or advances the public's right to access information possessed by federal and state governments.

The New England First Amendment Coalition presented its top honor to Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for The Washington Post. Sullivan accepted the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award on Friday before a large crowd of journalists, lawyers, educators, students, and media executives at NEFAC's annual awards luncheon at the Marriott Long Wharf.

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 NEFAC REPORT | April 2017  
Regional/National    CT     MA     ME     NH     RI     VT 

The New England First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce a $45,000 grant from the Barr Foundation in Boston to help strengthen journalism and protect freedom of the press. The foundation identified NEFAC as one of seven organizations focused on strengthening quality investigative work and protections for freedom of the press.  [...]



The legislation, L.D. 1432, allows an agency or official to "require payment of all costs before the public record is provided to the requester" under the state's Freedom of Access Act.  If L.D. 1432 were to become law, NEFAC explained, inexpensive and routine documents could be withheld for the sake of the relatively low fees collected in return, creating "a system ripe for obfuscation and needless delay."   [...]


By declining to review the case, the court has allowed the First Circuit ruling to stand, a result the New England First Amendment Coalition calls a victory for the First Amendment and open government. NEFAC filed an amici brief - drafted on behalf of the coalition by attorneys at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic - last year arguing that the New Hampshire law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and could impede the public's ability to monitor its government.  [...]

            Additional Coverage


The New England First Amendment Coalition expressed concern this week about a proposed policy that would limit access to recordings of the Maine State House Facilities Committee, calling such recordings "an invaluable tool to aid with accuracy and immediacy, and one that is in the public's great interest." The State House Facilities Committee is responsible for, among other things, the management of the capitol grounds and legislative space in the State House. It is currently considering three policies for the recording of its public hearings.  [...]



The decision follows a federal lawsuit a gainst the state by Courthouse News Service , a California-based wire service that reports on litigation filed throughout the country.  Vermont courts previously withheld from the public all lawsuit filings until the matter was resolved or at least one of the defendants in the suit had been served and the time for serving other defendants had elapsed. Vermont was the only state in the country to allow such a delay, according to the CNS complaint. Because the deadline for service is 60 days and can be extended by the court, there could have been a two month or longer delay to access the filings under the old rule. [...]

            Additional Coverage 


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined fellow Rhode Island open government groups to call for the release of testimony given in the 38 Studios grand jury proceedings. The groups said:  "As organizations deeply committed to open government in the state, we fully concur with the arguments made by the ACLU in its brief. In particular, we agree with the amicus's statement that 'in a well-functioning democracy, the people have a need to know how the state decides to spend public funds, and this need vastly outweighs any minimal interests in secrecy present here.' It is our hope that the governor's petition is granted and the public's right to know upheld."  [...]

            Additional Coverage


Senate Bill 18 codifies many of the First Amendment protections that already exist for professional journalists while allowing school administrators to retain control over content that may, among other things, "cause direct, immediate, and irreparable harm."  "The law would not be a blank check," explained Michael Donoghue, who testified April 4 on behalf of NEFAC and the Vermont Press Association. "Rather, Vermont would bring the legal protection of journalistic speech in line with all other student speech in the school, meaning that anything that a school could prevent from being displayed on a T-shirt or a baseball cap could still be prohibited on an editorial page."   [...]

Other FOI and First Amendment News
            Executive Office, First Amendment
            FOIA, Visitor Logs
            Twitter, Anonymous Speech

            CT-N Coverage

            Public Records Law, Governor
            'Revenge Porn' and First Amendment

            Private Email Accounts
            School Records
            State Shield Law
            Public Records, Attorney General's Office
            Ethics, Transparency