NEFAC REPORT | October 2018
NEFAC will honor on Feb. 15 individuals who have promoted and defended the First Amendment throughout the region. During its annual luncheon in Boston, the coalition presents several awards, including the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, the Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award and the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award. Learn more about the awards luncheon, purchase tickets and nominate award recipients  here .

The award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work from the previous calendar year that protects or advances the public’s right to know under federal or state law. Preference is given to those who overcome significant official resistance. [...] [ Nomination Materials ]

The award is given to an individual from one of the New England states who has fought for information crucial to the public’s understanding of its community or what its government is doing — or not doing — on its behalf. The candidate should have shown tenacity or bravery in the face of difficulty while obtaining information that the public has a right to know. [...] [ Nomination Materials ]
Public agencies and officials run afoul of First Amendment protections if they block Twitter followers for criticizing them. But those First Amendment arguments are moot if those government officials simply hit “mute.”

That’s the upshot of a recently ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, who said that President Trump’s decision to block Twitter followers for their political views represented a violation of the First Amendment. “No government official — including the President — is above the law,” Buchwald wrote for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. [...]
The New England First Amendment Coalition today argued against a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that limits public access to court records in criminal proceedings.

The ruling “impedes the public monitoring of the judicial system which is essential for the functioning of our democracy,” argued NEFAC and 47 media organizations and First Amendment advocates in an Oct. 26 amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, brought by  The Colorado Independent , could determine whether or not there is a First Amendment right to access criminal court records. [...]

Additional Coverage


First Amendment, Journalism Speakers Gather for Free Speech Week Events in Portland, Augusta
Free Speech Week — celebrated this year Oct. 22-28 — is a national campaign to increase awareness of free speech and its value in a democracy. During the week, individuals, schools and organizations throughout the country host events, exercise their free speech rights and highlight the importance of the First Amendment.

NEFAC , the First Amendment Museum at the Gannett House, Portland Media Center and WMPG provided a local week-long celebration of free speech, concluding with a panel discussion in Portland.

Additional Coverage

NEFAC will participate on a special committee tasked with drafting a new student journalism policy for the Burlington (Vt.) School District.

The Burlington School Board formed the committee after editors at the Burlington High School student newspaper complained recently about censorship by administrators. The committee’s first meeting is today. Michael Donoghue of South Burlington, NEFAC’s first vice president, will represent the coalition.

“This is an opportunity to set things right,” Donoghue said. “Students at high schools and colleges and their advisers should be protected from any form of retaliation, discipline, suspension or other adverse action.” [...]

Additional Coverage

NEFAC argued against a Florida state prison rule today that allows unreasonable censorship of inmate mail, calling the consequences of the rule “particularly harsh.”

NEFAC joined 17 other media and civil liberty advocates in an Oct. 11 amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court addressing the First Amendment right of prison inmates to receive newspapers and magazines without vague screening standards.

The case was brought by  Prison Legal News  after its publications were impounded in their entirety by a prison in response to a single ad for services inmates are prohibited from purchasing. The rule, amici argued, “can be exploited for improper censorial purposes.” [...]

Glamorous work it’s not. The work that she has done for decades has placed her at odds with some of the state’s most powerful public officials. The work has placed her on hard wooden benches in State House hearing rooms, waiting for hours to deliver testimony to leery legislators. And the work has often placed her between two ferns on public-access cable shows, urging viewers to defend the five freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment. But while it has never brought widespread glamour and fame, the role that Linda Lotridge Levin has played in Rhode Island over the years has been vital. [...]


Trump Administration and the Press



Sandy Hook, Public Records

Quasi-Public Agencies, Transparency

School Protest




State Police Transparency

Medford Police, Public Records

Political Ad Disclosures

Worcester Police, IA Records



Police, Transparency



Google Settlement, Public Records



Police Body Cameras


Major Supporters and Contributors to the 
New England First Amendment Coalition include: