Columnist Honored at NEFAC Awards Luncheon With Sun Journal, N.H. Transparency Advocate
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Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post, accepted the New England First Amendment Coalition‘s Stephen Hamblett Award today, calling for Americans to insist on the truth, seek it relentlessly and stand up for those who provide it.
Sullivan spoke during the seventh annual New England First Amendment Awards in Boston. NEFAC hosts the awards luncheon to honor those who have advocated for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know. During the luncheon, NEFAC also honored the Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine, and open government advocate Donna Green.
After accepting the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award — which is given to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career — Sullivan discussed what she called the “all-out animosity toward the press from Donald Trump.”
“President Trump shows no understanding of the role of the free press in our democracy,” she said, “the idea that journalists were intended by the framers of the Constitution as a check on power, a way to hold government accountable.”
One concern, Sullivan explained, is how Trump will respond to journalists who report leaked information. The Obama Administration aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers, she said, but ultimately relented when it came to journalists.
“If [Trump] does prosecute leakers there is no federal law on the books, no shield law to protect journalists from subpoenas,” Sullivan said. “In fact the Obama administration went down that road in several cases and eventually pulled back. Would Trump pull back?”
She added: “This all sounds very dark. I can tell you I’ve lost some sleep over it, worried about the very survival of American democracy when one of its foundations, a free press, is already under attack.”
Sullivan, however, noted a recent poll that shows voters trust media and the courts more than the president.
“Journalism’s role is more important than ever as we try to make sense of what’s happening for our viewers and readers,” she said. “I’m more convinced every day that most Americans know very well that just as the First Amendment protects us, we must return the framers great favor and protect it. We do that by insisting on the truth, seeking it relentlessly and standing up for those who provide it.”
Learn more about the New England First Amendment Awards and this year’s winners here.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here.
Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include The Robertson Foundation, Lois Howe McClure, The Boston Globe and Boston University. Celebration Supporters include The Hartford Courant and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.