New England First Amendment Coalition
March 2020

In a recent op/ed published by The Boston Globe, NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman explained that much of our government is becoming shrouded in secrecy despite how often top officials appear on our screens with updates.

"Timely and accurate information about government is crucial to maintaining trust during a crisis," Silverman wrote. "We can't trust our public institutions unless we know what they're doing on our behalf." [...]

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently wrote to the governors of several states describing the essential services newsrooms are providing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In print, on the air and online, journalists play a crucial, constitutionally protected role in providing information to communities during a time of crisis,” according to NEFAC and several organizations representing press interests throughout the region. [...]

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined a group of open government advocates to demand transparency and opportunities for public oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Government bodies should not opportunistically take advantage of the public’s inability to attend large gatherings to make critical decisions affecting the public’s interest if those decisions can reasonably be postponed,” according to NEFAC and more than 100 other open government advocates in a March 20 statement. [...]

While it’s reasonable to allow public officials more flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic, according to NEFAC, there still must be citizen participation and oversight.

“This order makes it too easy for officials to evade transparency,” NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman told WPRI in Providence. “As the governor said herself in the order, there are low-cost options available that allow public participation for meetings held remotely. Municipalities should be required to use them.” [...]
NEFAC commends all journalists for the excellent job they are doing given the challenging circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic presents. Our coalition wants to be a resource for you: What specific challenges are you facing and what needs do you currently have? Whether it’s guidance on better work strategies, small grants for unexpected expenses or online tutorials relevant to your work, please let us know so we can start finding solutions. Please email your suggestions to NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman at

NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman recently called legislation intending to fine newsrooms for not updating stories on court cases "unwise and unconstitutional.”

Bill S.2750 was ultimately withdrawn.

“The First Amendment prevents government from taking over the editorial function of a newsroom and dictating how public issues are covered,” Silverman said in a statement.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court explained in very clear terms, a responsible press is a desirable goal but press responsibility, like many other virtues, cannot be legislated. And for good reason. This type of legislation would turn newsrooms into an arm of the judicial system and ultimately discourage crime reporting altogether for fear of liability,” he said.

Additional Coverage

The March 11 program at Bigelow Free Public Library featured Noah Bombard and Melissa Hanson of MassLive, Emily Sweeney of The Boston Globe and NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman.

NEFAC offers discussions on journalism and the First Amendment as part of its Featured Speaker Program, launched in January 2018 to help increase First Amendment education in high schools, college classrooms and community centers.

To request a speaker for your event or arrange for an online or remote presentation please contact NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman at


Coalition Celebrates Transparency with Region-Wide Public Awareness Campaign

The March 10 program featured Gilles Bissonnette at ACLU of New Hampshire, Mark Doyle of Emergency Services and Communication, Rick Gagliuso of NEFAC and Bernstein Shur, Dean Shalup of The Telegraph, and Nancy West of the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism.

Additional Coverage


"You know there’s an issue when the Massachusetts State Police is being more transparent than you . . . It’s all about the trust that we as citizens can have of our law enforcement, and without knowing of allegations of misconduct and how departments are responding, it’s very difficult to maintain that trust."

"It’s really difficult to know if police are acting reasonably when it comes to the use of force if we don’t know what their policies are."

"You’re making the whole system more efficient and relieving some of the burden of public record requests from your own system . . . Worcester is a major city that we should expect these things from. In fact, we should expect police logs to be posted online for every municipality."


NEFAC Meets with Attorney General to Discuss Open Government Concerns
A contingent of New England First Amendment Coalition representatives met with Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha earlier this month to discuss open government concerns in the state.

The coalition will have regular follow-up meetings with the Attorney General's Office to represent the public's interest in freedom of information and transparency.


Regional / National


Trump and the Press

Espionage Act, Journalism



'Clean Slate' Legislation

Education Partnership, FOI Law

Voter Information



Waterville, Secret Meetings




Public Records Law


New Hampshire


Sunshine Week


Rhode Island