Judge: Mug Shots, Arrest Reports of Officials are Public in Mass. | The Boston Globe 12.8.17
“We need to know when police are breaking laws instead of enforcing them,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, an advocate for greater access to public records. “It’s a matter of public trust. Mugshots and incident reports should not be withheld to spare the reputation of a police officer.”
The Secrets of Governor Charlie Baker | The Boston Globe 11.29.17
Media attorney Peter J. Caruso Sr. has repeatedly argued that the governor, while not listed explicitly in the law, is not excluded either. Therefore, Baker’s documents should be presumed to be a public record. “Lambert is a hollow case that revolves around one issue,” said Caruso, who’s also a board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “No one’s asking about questionnaires for judicial nominations, we’re talking about basic public records. Why would the governor, the highest office in the state, be exempt?”
ACCESS RI Warns Council of OMA Violation | East Greenwich Pendulum 11.18.17
The letter was signed by all of the ACCESS RI board members; ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown, President of the League of Women Voters of RI Jane Koster, ACCESS RI President Linda Levin, Common Cause RI Executive Director John Marion, University of Rhode Island Journalism Department Chair John Pantalone and New England First Amendment Coalition Executive Director Justin Silverman.
Federal Suit: First Amendment Rights Violated at ‘Boston Free Speech’ Rally | Berkshire Eagle 11.16.17
In October, the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts sent the city a joint letter in response to the August rally. In it, they requested a meeting to discuss how the city can provide security while also protecting First Amendment rights and demanding increased press access to public demonstrations on the Boston Common.
Globe Editor McGrory Talks Numbers at First Amendment Gathering | Media Nation 11.4.17
Because I get memos, this blog is perhaps more dedicated to the words and thoughts of Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory than is strictly necessary. But he does lead New England’s largest news organization, and we all care about the fate of the Globe at a time of economic uncertainty. So I thought I’d pass along a bit of what McGrory had to say at last week’s New England First Amendment Institute.
The ACLU of Massachusetts, along with the New England First Amendment Coalition and others, sent a letter on Tuesday to Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans asking for a meeting concerning press access to public events, sparked by the August rally. Officials had set up a barricade around the Free Speech Rally participants, meaning that “journalists couldn’t hear what the rally participants were saying, interview the participants or document in any meaningful way what occurred on the Bandstand,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, in a statement.
Boston Officials Violated First Amendment Rights at ‘Free Speech’ Rally | MassLive 10.24.17
The groups that signed the letter include the New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC), the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association (MNPA), the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ-NE), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Massachusetts (ACLUM).
Vt. Supreme Court: Private Emails of Public Officials Fair Game | VT Digger 10.20.17
“This is a major win for transparency,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “We have long believed that Vermonters are entitled to public records even if they are in a private email account. These records are the public’s business. They allow us to monitor our government and to hold our officials accountable. Today’s decision strengthens the public’s right to know and helps prevent secrecy. Vermont is now in the good company of other states that have had similar rulings recently. We hope this trend continues.”
Portland Mayor’s Private Emails Part of His School Bond Effort | The Forecaster 10.18.17
Attorney Sigmund Schutz of Preti Flaherty, who is also a member of the board of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said Figdor’s Sept. 6 email is part of the public record. “(The question) is on the ballot, for God’s sake,” Schutz said. “It is the content of the communication that matters, not the email address.”
Nation Needs First Amendment Refresher Course | Providence Journal 10.2.17
“We clearly have work to do,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “Education is needed across the board, whether on college campuses or in the White House. The First Amendment asks us to be consistent — to protect those thoughts that we are in favor of, as well as those ideas that we find offensive.”
Protect, Serve, Report | Caledonian Record 9.30.17
“Journalists are a proxy for us all,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition explains. “They are our eyes and ears. To shut out the press or withhold information because of small grievances is to the detriment of the communities police are tasked with serving.” . . . “Part of keeping communities safe is keeping them informed,” Silverman says. “We have a right to know about the crimes in our towns and how our law enforcement is responding.”
Police Clamp Tight Rein on Information | Stowe Reporter 9.21.17
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said police departments “should be going out of their way” to provide timely information and to maintain positive and open relationships with journalists. “These relationships are vital,” Silverman said. “Journalists are a proxy for us all. They are our eyes and ears. To shut out the press or withhold information because of small grievances is to the detriment of the communities police are tasked with serving.” . . . Added Silverman, “Part of keeping communities safe is keeping them informed. We have a right to know about the crimes in our towns and how our law enforcement is responding.”
A Nationwide Movement Protecting the Student Press | RCFP 9.8.17
The letter cited a recently published research by University of Kansas professors. In a survey of 461 high school journalists, 38 percent of all students said they had been told that certain topics were off-limits for discussion in student media, with substance abuse as the number one forbidden topic. Almost half — 47 percent — said they restrained themselves from writing some articles, in anticipation of an adverse reaction from school administrators. The Providence Student Union, Rhode Island Press Association, New England First Amendment Coalition, Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of News Editors, and Journalism Education Association also signed the letter.
Call for Transparency | Caledonian Record 9.8.17
The refusal to release the video by State Police drew the attention of the New England First Amendment Coalition, which rightly called on police to release the footage. “As more officers throughout the region begin using body and dash cams, it’s necessary for police departments to set a standard of transparency and trust,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “In police shooting cases such as this, there is a need for credibility and camera footage provides an important source of information for the public. The recordings in this case should be released as soon as possible so the public better understands how the shooting occurred and how law enforcement reacted.” We agree wholeheartedly agreed with Silverman and think his comments are as applicable to the Battles shooting as they were in Beshaw.
Maintain Freedom for the Thought We Hate, But Speak Up | Providence Journal 8.28.17
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, “The First Amendment demands a lot from our country.” But, he said, “what may seem like a terrible burden is instead a special freedom we all share — one that allows us to speak our own mind without the government telling us we are wrong and that we should stay silent. It’s not too difficult to imagine a political environment where racist policies reign and officials would deny 30,000 people the right to march in the name of equality. Fortunately, we have the First Amendment to prevent the government from playing arbiter, and to protect the power of people to express themselves on their own terms. We must have faith that ultimately we, as a country, will arrive at the most just conclusions.”
First Amendment Activists Protest Restrictions At Boston Free Speech Rally | Associated Press 8.27.17
The New England First Amendment Coalition says those restrictions unreasonably interfered with the right of journalists to cover a story of public interest. The ‘free speech’ rally was confined to the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common Saturday as barriers and police held back a massive protest. They say accommodations should have been made for close-up press coverage of the speakers as is usually done at public events.
Boston Authorities Should Not Have Blocked Media | Columbia Journalism Review 8.21.17
“The WCVB interview does imply his office was involved with the decision,” says Justin Silverman of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “While police are given significant leeway to prevent violence, they can’t restrict speech based on its content.”
To Fight Bigotry and Hate, Don’t Muzzle It. There’s a Better Way | The Washington Post 8.20.17
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, is worried about the suppression of speech by those who disagree with it. “When that speech is racist or anti-Semitic, it’s easy to accept that suppression. But we shouldn’t,” he told me. Beware of the “hecklers’ veto,” he said. That’s what happens when a speech or rally is shut down in advance because of the fear of violent reaction. . . . Why not just forbid these demonstrations altogether? If you think that might be wise, here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a civil rights march that is shut down because officials fear a violent response from racists. “It’s not that difficult to remember a time when rallies for equality and civil rights were considered offensive and unpopular,” Silverman said. “The First Amendment exists to protect that offensive and unpopular speech.”
Boston Protests Expected to Draw Thousands, City Gears Up | Wicked Local 8.19.17
Hotlines will be open for journalists covering Saturday’s rally, according to the New England First Amendment Coalition, which said four journalists were attacked while covering protests in Charlottesville.
Protect & Serve Report | Caledonian Record 8.15.17
“This is basic information we are entitled to under the law,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition noted in our news story on Saturday. “We have a right to know about crimes in our communities and should demand transparency whenever possible. Insisting on secrecy not only violates the principles of open government, but it erodes the trust of the communities those officers serve.”
Many States Avoid the AG in Prosecuting Public Record Violations | RI Future 8.15.17
Many states don’t use their attorney general to enforce state public records laws, according to a spreadsheet created by the New England First Amendment Coalition. While 20 states, including Rhode Island, rely on the attorney general, the majority do not.
Open Government Advocates Call For More Police Information, Not Less | Caledonian Record 8.12.17
“Our police should be disclosing more information, not less,” said Justin Silverman, Executive Director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “It’s not just public safety that’s at stake, but the accountability of our law enforcement. We can’t know if police are doing their job if we don’t know what happened, where it happened and who was involved.” . . . “This is basic information we are entitled to under the law,” said Silverman. “We have a right to know about crimes in our communities and should demand transparency whenever possible. Insisting on secrecy not only violates the principles of open government, but it erodes the trust of the communities those officers serve.”
National Media Join First Amendment Fight Over Access to Court Records | Courthouse News Service 7.13.17
Media advocacy groups signing the amicus brief include the First Amendment Coalition, New England First Amendment Coalition, and the Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University.
Kilmartin, playing to the cheap seats, responded by saying “it is a disgrace that the Governor would put the interests of Hollywood elites before that of Rhode Island victims of this horrendous crime that has lifelong impact.” But as Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, put it in an emailed comment, “These elites apparently include the ACLU, the RI Press Association, the New England First Amendment Coalition, and the Media Coalition, all of whom testified against his bill and in favor of hers. He would rather pass a bill that will end up providing no protection to victims because it will be struck down rather than agree to a ‘watered down’ constitutional one.”
Local Police See Varying Levels of Information Access | The Enterprise 6.25.17
Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said the trend should be toward more openness, not less, among government organizations like school districts and inspection services, and that’s even more important for police departments in situations involving public safety. “There’s a presumption of openness in this state, and any time a police department can inform the community and provides more information about something, that’s a good thing,” said Silverman. “Police departments that are providing more info than what’s required, kudos to them and they should be recognized and serve as a model to other departments that are more tight-lipped.”
Experts: West Bridgewater Police Erred in Handling of Police Report | The Enterprise 6.25.17
“We have the right to know who’s accused of crimes in our communities and whether police are acting appropriately,” said Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “When a major car accident occurs on a public street and the driver is accused of fleeing the scene, we need to know who was involved and how law enforcement responded. This is the type of oversight our public records law provides. Without basic information like the names of those involved in the crash, it’s impossible to fully understand what happened and why.”
A Fight of Supreme Importance | Caledonian Record 6.7.17
“All Vermonters who want to get to the information would need evidence and you can imagine just how difficult that would be,” said Cornell. The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Vermont Press Association joined us and VTDigger in the fight.
Legal Adversary Says Donovan Raising Hurdles to Transparency | VTDigger 5.30.17
Attorney Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, suggested the attorney general’s concerns about privacy might undermine the public’s right to know.
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.”
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.
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, InDepthNH.org 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,” he added. “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.
Exercising First Amendment Rights is a Team Sport | Roger Williams University 3.1.17
At a New England First Amendment Coalition event on Feb. 24, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan began her keynote address by thanking the many journalism students in attendance, including eight students from Roger Williams University. “I admire the fact that you are making the foray into our somewhat treacherous waters at this particular time,” Sullivan said. “We need you more than ever.”
Recipients Call for Relentless Pursuit, Defense of the Truth | NENPA 2.26.17
With new threats to the First Amendment, journalism’s role is more important than ever, Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post, told those attending the seventh annual New England First Amendment Coalition awards luncheon Friday, Feb. 24, in Boston.
A Change of Heart on White House Leaks | The Westerly Sun 2.27.17
NEFAC’s Justin Silverman said, “Once the public has lost faith in the Fourth Estate, there is nothing to separate fact from fiction, truth from propaganda. Yes, we need to demand high standards and integrity from our press corps. But at the same time, we need to discard hollow accusations of ‘fake news’ and petty grievances with coverage. There’s too much at stake to consider every critical news story as the work of dishonest politically driven reporters.”
Rants and Raves (video) | Beat the Press 2.24.17
Northeastern University professor Dan Kennedy discusses 2017 New England First Amendment Awards honoree Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post.
TGIF: 21 Things To Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media | RI Public Radio 2.24.17
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, ‘President Trump’s continued attacks on the media undermine the value of journalism in our country. A reporter’s job isn’t to pat the president on the back, but to instead pursue the truth, regardless of how it reflects on an administration. As the saying goes, democracy dies in darkness. Trump seems intent on discrediting the very people we rely on to shine light in those dark corners of government.’
Sun Journal receives First Amendment Award | Sun Journal 2.25.17
The Sun Journal was awarded the Michael Donoghue First Amendment Award by the New England First Amendment Coalition on Friday. The award was given to the Lewiston newspaper during the annual New England Newspaper and Press Association convention. The freedom of information award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work that protects or advances the public’s right to access information possessed by federal and state governments.