NEFAC REPORT | April 2019
The New England First Amendment Coalition joined other media and open government groups earlier this month for a press briefing at the Vermont Supreme Court.

The briefing followed arguments in a lawsuit brought by ACLU of Vermont that seeks the release of Burlington police body camera footage, among other records.

NEFAC — along with the Vermont Journalism Trust and the Vermont Press Association — filed an amicus curiae brief in the case earlier this year. The primary issue in the case is whether government agencies may charge record requesters for inspection of public records, including body camera footage.

Read amicus brief here .

Read case information and documents here .

Additional Coverage


NEFAC Meets with Attorney General to Discuss Transparency in State Government
A contingent of New England First Amendment Coalition representatives met with New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald earlier this month to discuss open government concerns in the state. NEFAC plans to have regular follow-up meetings with the Attorney General's Office to represent the public's interest in freedom of information and transparency.

The meeting is part of NEFAC's effort to discuss open government with each attorney general in all New England states by the end of the year. The coalition also met with Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha in February.
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently expressed concern about how a new online judicial records system will be implemented in Vermont.

Proposed rules released by the Vermont Supreme Court in February cover records in both physical and electronic form. The rules are intended to also govern how a new case-management system will be used by all courts in the state.

“Overall, we applaud the court’s effort to provide such access to its records,” wrote Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, in an April 15 letter. “This type of accessibility is crucial to an informed citizenry and an accountable government.” The coalition, however, had several concerns with the rules. [...]

Much has changed in the national discourse since a pro-war rabble two centuries ago tore down a Baltimore newspaper building, besieged the paper’s editor, and later broke into the city jail to attack him yet again.

But while legal and conventional structures have been erected to protect a robust free press, the baying mob hasn’t exactly gone away, according to Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, and Massachusetts State Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury), author of the new book Mobtown Massacre: Alexander Hanson and the Baltimore Newspaper War of 1812.

The two appeared on CommonWealth Magazine's Codcast to talk about the violence that followed Alexander Hanson’s decision to publish an anti-war editorial, and to then double-down with another screed after political opponents tore down his newspaper building. [...]
Rhode Island celebrated “Sunshine Week” recently, but when it comes to open government in Rhode Island these days, the more accurate description might be “Sunshine: Weak.”

The Providence Journal detailed the dark days in a March 10 special report, “Transparency Under Assault: Government Secrecy in Rhode Island.”

The report provided a primer for a March 23 panel talk, “Learn from the Experts: How to use Rhode Island’s Public Records and Open Meetings Laws.” [...]
The New England First Amendment Coalition is sending two local journalists to the upcoming five-day Data+Narrative storytelling workshop at Boston University.

The coalition is sponsoring two seats at the workshop for past attendees of its New England First Amendment Institute. The annual institute is a three-day investigative journalism program offered to 25 New England journalists at no cost to them. Since the institute’s founding in 2011, NEFAC has trained more than 200 fellows.

Attending the Data+Narrative workshop this year will be Nora Doyle-Burr of the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., and Peter McGuire of the Portland Press Herald. Both were institute fellows in 2014. [...]
I’m writing to call your attention to a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature, which we think would draw an ever-tighter cloak of secrecy around investigative reports of abuse and neglect of the disabled in the state: H.117.

It’s not clear that either key state legislators or many in the media are aware of this bill or its implications. If you haven’t already done so, we hope you will take a close look at the measure, which would effectively exempt all investigative reports and records of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) from public disclosure even if personal information in those records were redacted. [...]

New England Scholastic Press Association | Boston University

First Amendment and the Free Press
Bedford Free Public Library | Bedford, Mass. | Speakers TBA

MAY 15
Leominster Public Library | Leominster, Mass.

MAY 23
Southworth Public Library | Dartmouth, Mass.

Shrewsbury Public Library | Shrewsbury, Mass.

Sharon Public Library | Sharon, Mass.

Wanskuck Library | Providence, R.I.

Cranston Public Library | Cranston, R.I.

Olneyville Public Library | Providence, R.I.

First Amendment and the Free Press
Saugus Public Library | Saugus, Mass. | Speakers TBA


Assange Arrest



Free Speech, Vulgarity




Law Enforcement, Public Records

Free Speech, Panhandling



Laurie List

Student Speech