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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 


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Attorney General Weighs in on Public Records Case | VTDigger 5.19.17  "We welcome the attorney general's position that private email and text messaging accounts can be searched under the Public Records Act," said attorney Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. Silverman said it is still concerning that the attorney general is questioning how such searches can occur, the answer to which could have serious consequences for the public's right to know. . . . Silverman said that reasoning places a burden on the party requesting records that isn't contemplated by the Public Records Act, and which could be used to deny access to records that would be public were they not located on private accounts. "If a request needs to meet a certain standard before private accounts can be searched, the requester certainly shouldn't be required to put the cart before the horse and first provide proof the records exist," he said.

Judge Denies Release of 38 Studios Secret Grand Jury Records | WJAR-Providence 5.19.17  Access RI, the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the New England First Amendment Coalition wanted the details related to the probe released saying there is "extraordinarily strong public interest" in the grand jury process. And now they are disappointed, said Justin Silverman with the New England First Amendment Coalition. "The decision is incredibly disappointing and a blow to the public's right to know in Rhode Island." Silverman said. "We had hoped for more transparency about 38 Studios but instead we're just facing more secrecy, more of the same."

VTDigger is filing the amicus brief in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Vermont. Other news outlets and transparency groups have signed on, including the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Caledonian Record, Seven Days and the Vermont Press Association.

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.

We welcome contributions 
to the NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, academics 
or other advocates of 
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 NEFAC REPORT | May 2017  
Regional/National    CT     MA     ME     NH     RI     VT 

NEFAC celebrated its tenth year of advocacy in 2016, a testament to the generosity of supporters like you. With more than 30 New England journalists and media attorneys on our board, NEFAC is on the frontline of the region's First Amendment and freedom of information battles. With your continued support, we are training journalists and educating the public in desperately needed ways. We are protecting your freedoms and your right to know.  [...]

Our coalition is working every day to educate New England communities about their First Amendment rights and to reinforce the value of a vigorous, independent press. Given the political climate that exists today, NEFAC's work is needed now more than ever. This Annual Review is a sampling of that work and those who helped make it possible in 2016. [...]

"If we are to have a press that can truly act as the watchdog of power, organizations like NEFAC need to have your support. Please make a donation today."  Tom Fiedler, NEFAC President  [...]

"In these contentious times, news organizations need NEFAC to offer advice and back them up. Even a small contribution can make a huge difference to NEFAC and its mission."  Janet Wu, NEFAC Board Member [...]

We need you. Now, more than ever.
"We must rally behind the organizations who are under attack by those bent on bullying and muzzling, demeaning and delegitimizing a crucial component of our democracy." Edward Fitzpatrick, NEFAC Board Member [...]


Vermont Gov. Phil Scott recently signed into law legislation that provides greater First Amendment protections for student journalists and their teachers and advisers. The New England First Amendment Coalition is one of several organizations that spent more than a year advocating for such protections at high schools and colleges in Vermont.  [...]

            Additional Coverage


Senate Bill 0401 would criminalize the unauthorized sharing of sexually explicit images or photos of a person's "intimate areas." It does not, as NEFAC argued, adequately protect media organizations that may publish such images when they are newsworthy. Such instances could include, for example, the photos of mistreated or tortured prisoners of war. NEFAC opposed similar legislation proposed last year. Gov. Gina Raimondo ultimately vetoed that bill.  [...]



The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined an amici curiae brief in a case that could determine whether public officials in Vermont can skirt the state's public records law by communicating through private email accounts. The Vermont Supreme Court case, Toensing v. Attorney General of Vermont, follows a Feb. 9 ruling that documents otherwise subject to the Public Records Act could be kept secret if they are kept on a private email or text message server. [...]

            Additional Coverage

The following is a statement by Access/RI on the recent decision to keep secret grand jury testimony about the 38 Studios case. The New England First Amendment Coalition is a member organization of Access/RI, which is a non-profit freedom of information coalition dedicated to improving citizen access to the records and processes of government in Rhode Island. [...]

            Additional Coverage

The bill was one of two priority legislative issues for the Vermont Press Association this year. A broad coalition of television, radio, freelance and online journalists joined the press association in advocating for the measure. Vermont joins about 40 states that have enacted some kind of shield law for journalists, according to Adam Silverman, president of the Vermont Press Association and an editor and writer at the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press. [...]

            Additional Coverage

Sadly, Cranston, R.I., has recently joined the ranks of those jurisdictions that have decided that the best way to deal with homelessness is to make it a crime.
This national phenomenon, fostered in an environment of ignorance, fear and hatred, is nothing new, but it is suddenly becoming much more pervasive. Jurisdictions around the country have moved to criminalize activities that are inherently associated with homelessness, such as sleeping in public, sleeping in vehicles, loitering and panhandling.   [...]

Other FOI and First Amendment News
            Publishing Leaked Information
            Trump Administration, Government Data

            CT-N Coverage

            Public Records, Governor's Office
            Shield Laws, Journalism

            Accidents, Driver Privacy