Press Coverage

NEFAC receives considerable press coverage each year for its consistent advocacy of freedom of information and First Amendment concerns. Below are links to stories we’ve appeared in during the current year. Coverage from previous years can be seen here: 201820172016201520142013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

Vermont Supreme Court Hears Inspection Of Public Records Case Involving Burlington Police | VPR 4.17.19

Several agencies, including Vermont’s secretary of state and New England First Amendment Coalition, filed briefs in support of the ACLU’s position.

Vermont Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Charging to View Police Body Cams | VTDigger 4.17.19

Several other organizations have signed onto amicus briefs in support of Doyle and the ACLU of Vermont. They include the Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, The Vermont Journalism Trust, Vermont Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition.  . . . Michael Donoghue, a former Burlington Free Press reporter, represented the Vermont Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition, at the hearing Wednesday. Speaking after the proceeding, Donoghue that he found “interesting” that the Burlington Police Department wanted to charge Doyle fees in this case, but in another recent situation released body cam footage without charging anyone.  . . . “The other day the Burlington Police Department issued a video involving some Secret Service agents, they redacted certain parts of it and never charged anybody and circulated it among the media,” Donoghue said. “I’m not sure what the difference is between those two cases,” he added. “Why do you want to charge in this case, but on the other hand did not charge anybody, as far as I know, in the Secret Service case.”

When Muskets Defended the Editorial Page (audio) | Commonwealth Magazine 4.16.19

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 Rep. Josh Cutler of Duxbury, author of the new book Mobtown Massacre: Alexander Hanson and the Baltimore Newspaper War of 1812.

First Amendment: Up to the Public to Shine a Light on Government | Providence Journal 4.7.19

It was encouraging to see more than 50 people turn out a cold, windy Saturday morning to hear from Milkovits, former WPRI-TV reporter Dan McGowan and The Valley Breeze Managing Editor Ethan Shorey. Common Cause Rhode Island hosted the “Demystifying Democracy” event along with ACCESS/RI, the R.I. ACLU, the League of Women Voters of R.I., the R.I. Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition. I was the moderator, so I’ll skip right to the end and give you the takeaway from each panelist.

Contract Cost Items Should Be Public, Transparency Advocates Say | Concord Monitor 3.31.19

Richard Gagliuso, an attorney with Bernstein Shur and a director at the New England First Amendment Coalition, said public contracts don’t come up often in his work, but they should. “I think people may look at the exemption in the RTK law for ‘strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining’ and assume that anything having to do with collective bargaining, at any stage of the process, is off limits. That is not the case,” he wrote in an email.

NEFAC to Present ‘The First Amendment and the Free Press’ | RI News Today 3.26.19

The New England First Amendment Coalition will present its ongoing community conversation, “The First Amendment and the Free Press,” from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. on April 29 at Rochambeau Library, 708 Hope Street, Providence.

Amended Autopsy Report that Led to Maine Mistrial is Being Kept Secret | Press Herald 3.19.19

But attorney Sigmund Schutz said the court has many tools to select an impartial jury, such as the ability to individually question potential jurors, and there is a public interest that should warrant the report being released. “I think this goes to the public’s confidence in the fairness of our criminal justice system and the performance of an incredibly important public official,” said Schutz, a board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition and an attorney who represents the Portland Press Herald in public records cases.

Under the Golden Dome: Where Lawmakers Stand on Public Records Law | Daily Hampshire Gazette 3.18.19

“That’s too much secrecy,” Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said in written testimony to the Legislature in September. Silverman called it “an embarrassment” that all three branches of government in the commonwealth claim to be exempt from public records requests. “Accountability simply cannot exist where there is secrecy.”

Journalists Put ‘the Public’ in Public Records | IRW 3.15.19

Mike Donoghue, vice president of the New England First Amendment Coalition and a longtime reporter, said the public’s lack of knowledge about open government is a top concern for the coalition. Journalists are trained to overcome roadblocks. But a concerned parent looking into school board activities may not have the same knowledge. A family member concerned about violations at a nursing home may struggle to find time to fight for inspection records. Someone receiving public assistance may not be able to afford to pay for records they need. And those scenarios assume the general public even knows to ask. “They just don’t know what the next step is or that they really are entitled to these records,” Donoghue said. “Citizens sort of shrug and walk out the door and go: ‘Huh, OK. I guess I’m not entitled to those documents.’” The New England First Amendment Coalition provides resources to educate the public about open government. But until someone has a reason to access this information, most people don’t know how public records laws work.

Panelists at Brown See Increased Attacks By Officials | The Providence Journal 3.15.19

This disrespect for a free press is becoming the new normal, a new low bar has been set for future governments,” said Karen Bordeleau, president of the New England First Amendment Coalition and former executive editor at The Providence Journal. “This is not just a press problem. This is America’s problem.”

Journalists Advocate for Freedom of Speech | The Brown Daily Herald 3.15.19

“If I were writing a lede here, it would be that the Trump administration has shown a blatant disrespect and disregard for civil liberties, which has reverberated around the globe,” said Karen Bordeleau, president of the New England First Amendment Coalition and former executive editor of The Providence Journal, in a panel discussion Thursday night.

Nominating State’s Judges Starts in the Dark | Cape Cod Times 3.15.19

New England First Amendment Coalition Executive Director Justin Silverman said Massachusetts government, generally, operates in a “culture of secrecy,” citing the state’s public record laws, which exempt the judiciary, the Legislature and the governor’s office from having to respond to records requests. “It’s an uphill battle and I think it’s a very tough sell to tell the governor and legislators, ‘You should be more transparent and more accountable to the people you serve,’” Silverman said.

Let the Sunshine In | Milton Times 3.14.19

Each March, beyond basketball’s March Madness, is Sunshine Week, “ a national celebration of the citizen’s right to know about government,” as posted on the New England First Amendment Coalition website. Its goal, as nefac.org notes, is to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.”

Your Right to Know is Vital to Freedom | Union Leader 3.13.19

A valuable and informative discussion of New Hampshire law was held Monday night at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, Inc. The school, which teaches and preaches the First Amendment, co-sponsored the event with the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Police Investigations Are, and Must Remain, Public | The Hartford Courant 3.10.19

“There is simply no reason for this bill other than a strong preference by law enforcement and prosecutors not to be supervised by the public,” said Justin Silverman of the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Bill Would Allow Too Much Police Secrecy | The Day 3.10.19

Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, put it so well in his testimony that we will let his words sum up our editorial: “There is simply no reason for this bill, other than a strong preference by law enforcement and prosecutors not to be supervised by the public.

What Should Remain Public Information in Criminal Investigations? | CT News Junkie 3.7.19

Making that very same argument was the New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC). “The Connecticut FOIA already allows police to keep secret any documents that could jeopardize an investigation, identify a witness, or reveal investigatory techniques, NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman wrote. “Even when interpreted narrowly, this legislation is unnecessary given the state’s existing police records exemption to the Freedom of Information Act,” Silverman said. “There is simply no reason for this bill, other than a strong preference by law enforcement and prosecutors not to be supervised by the public.”

Bill Would Expand Police Secrecy | Hearst Connecticut 3.6.19

The New England First Amendment Coalition warned that such a law would give too much power to law enforcement, leaving a vague definition of “property” seized in criminal probes, and could prevent the disclosure of all records in all criminal cases. “Bill No. 970 would give police unreasonably broad discretion to shield from the public records it now has the right to view,” wrote Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “This could make it near impossible for Connecticut residents to monitor the activity of police and hold its law enforcement accountable.”

ProPublica Editor Says Economics Biggest Threat to Free Press | Providence Journal 3.3.19

Engelberg, who founded The New York Times’ investigative unit and served as managing editor of The Oregonian, recounted his Rhode Island days while accepting the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition in Boston on Feb. 15. Named after the late publisher of The Providence Journal, the Hamblett Award is given each year to those who have promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment during their careers.

Documents Provide Insight Into Mind of a Murderer | Roger Williams University 2.19.19

On Feb. 15, Altimari and Julien were in Boston for NEFAC’s annual First Amendment awards luncheon. The Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award is given to journalists who fight for the public’s right to know under federal or state law. Releasing Lanza’s documents creates a trail, helping to explain why he may have decided to shoot 20 children and six adults fatally.

Student Journalists Win Battle Against Censorship | Roger Williams University 2.19.19

The students were honored by the New England First Amendment Coalition in Boston on Feb. 15 for their courageous efforts. “It was definitely like delving into the unknown at first, but we were running on adrenaline at that point,” Editor Julia Shannon-Grillo said. “I think it’s made more people want to write for us and become more motivated to write things like this.”

Upcoming Events at the Leominster Public Library | Leominster Champion 2.20.19

The Leominster Public Library invites the community to “The First Amendment and the Free Press,” a panel discussion challenging Americans to rediscover the central role the First Amendment and a free press plays in our democracy. The program will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in the library’s Community Room, in partnership with the New England First Amendment Coalition. It is presented as part of the library’s focus on social justice during the month of February, and its year-long “Leominster Library University” slate of educational programs. The event is part of NEFAC’s Featured Speaker Program, launched to help increase First Amendment education in high schools, college classrooms and community organizations. Scheduled speakers are Richard Gagliuso, attorney at New Hampshire’s Burnstein Shur; Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition; and Susan Spencer, news reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Student-Journalists Recognized for Fighting Censorship | WCAX-Burlington 2.15.19

The former Burlington High School guidance director has now lost his license over charges of misconduct. During a luncheon, the New England First Amendment Coalition will honor the young journalists from the school newspaper. The Register who did not back down from their story. The students used public records last year to write the story, and led to some back and forth with school leaders and allegations of censorship.

Vermont High School Paper to Be Recognized for Pushing Story | Associated Press 2.10.19

Journalists from a Vermont student newspaper are being recognized by the New England First Amendment Coalition for breaking a story about their guidance director who faced state disciplinary charges. The students from The Register at Burlington High School used public records last year to write the story, but they were ordered to take the story down after the school principal demanded they do so. The students took down the story, but began a campaign to fight censorship.

Newspaper Honored for Sandy Hook Shooting Records Quest | Associated Press 2.10.19

The Courant will be honored at a Friday awards luncheon for its successful efforts to obtain information related to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty first-graders and six teachers were killed. NEFAC executive director Justin Silverman says the newspaper brought to light details about shooter Adam Lanza that had been hidden in documents that state police kept secret.

Appeals Court Orders Release Of Jurors’ Names And Addresses | WBUR 2.6.19

Stearns had characterized the 1st Circuit’s rules as antiquated in the face of “a less innocent and more threatening age.” But Pyle and The New England First Amendment Coalition, which entered the case as amicus (“a friend of the court”) in support of WBUR, reported they could find no instances of jurors ever being adversely affected by having their names and addresses released by the court after trials had ended.

Fall River Mayor Took Wrong Cue with ‘Fake News’ Attack | The Providence Journal 2.4.19

“Public officials forfeit their right to complain about reporting when they hold a so-called news conference and refuse to answer questions,” said Tim White, a WPRI-12 investigative reporter and a member of the New England First Amendment Coalition board. “The mayor would serve himself and the people of Fall River better if he spent his energy being transparent, instead of creating a website that perpetuates the president’s attacks on journalism. Elected officials who lash out at reporters simply because they are unhappy with news coverage need to understand they are also attacking access to information that the people they represent have a right to know.” New England First Amendment Coalition Executive Director Justin Silverman said “fake news” is a loaded term — one used not to call out inaccurate reporting but to delegitimize journalism. “Newsrooms make mistakes and should be accountable when they do,” Silverman said. “It would have been entirely appropriate for Correia to discuss with the Herald News his concerns about the story and attempt to correct the record if it needed to be corrected. But he resorted to crying ‘fake news’ and attacking a journalist for doing her job. That doesn’t advance the truth. That doesn’t help the public get a better understanding of the story. That’s just spite toward the one reporting it.”

Video Shows Woman Hitting Cameras of Reporters; Expert Says, ‘No Excuse’ | Burlington Free Press 2.1.19

“We all have a right to stand on a sidewalk peacefully and record what’s going on in our public streets, whether we’re a journalist or not,” said Justin Silverman, the Executive Director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “No one should be able to interfere with that.” … “I think the general sentiment against journalists is concerning,” Silverman said. “I think that there can be a real lack of understanding about how valuable the job of a journalist is and the public service it provides community.”

Free-Press Advocates Slam Ban on Coverage of BLM Flag Raising | WFFF-Burlington 2.1.19

Students plan to raise a Black Lives Matter flag at the outdoor event. But after publicizing the ceremony in a two-page press release, the school announced that members of the public — including reporters — would be restricted to an area across a busy road from the high school. On Friday, the New England First Amendment Coalition called on officials at South Burlington High to allow the news media access to the ceremony.

Courant Wins Top New England FOI Award | Hartford Courant 2.1.19

The New England First Amendment Coalition will honor the Courant with its 2019 Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award. The award is presented annually to New England journalists who protect or advance the public’s right to know under federal or state law.

Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Media Access to Jurors | Providence Journal 1.22.19

New England First Amendment Coalition hailed the ruling as a victory. “Being able to interview jurors about public trials is essential for good government,” said Justin Silverman, the organization’s executive director. “The public needs the opportunity to better understand these cases whether the verdict is guilty, not guilty or it’s a hung jury.”

Condos: Cops Shouldn’t Charge Vermonters to View Body Camera Footage | Seven Days 1.22.19

The Vermont Journalism Trust, Vermont Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition will be filing briefs in support of Doyle later this week, the ACLU said in a Tuesday press release.

ACLU Has ‘Friends’ in its Fight to View Burlington Police Bodycam Footage | VTDigger 1.22.19

In addition, the The Vermont Journalism Trust, Vermont Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition will be filing an amicus brief later this week. The Vermont Journalism Trust is VTDigger’s parent organization.

Publisher Joins Media Group In Opposing Courtroom Registration | Caledonian Record 1.19.19

Caledonian-Record publisher Todd Smith endorsed a letter from the New England First Amendment Coalition citing opposition to proposed rules that would limit the public’s ability to record Vermont judicial proceedings and require journalists to register with the state before using cameras in courtrooms.

NEFAC Presents to Canadian Delegation, Expands First Amendment Education Program | InDepth NH 1.17.19

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently presented to a delegation of Canadian public officials interested in learning about U.S. constitutional law and civil liberties. “It was a great opportunity to share with those outside our borders the value of the First Amendment and why it is so important to this country,” said Gregory V. Sullivan, a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors who spoke to the visiting group Jan. 15 at the Boston Foundation in Boston.

Open Court: NEFAC Comments on Media Registration and Recording in Court | Caledonian Record 1.16.19

In summary, we believe these changes are unnecessary as state courts already have adequate tools at their disposal to protect the privacy interests of witnesses and jurors. We are also uncomfortable with the court enforcing a registration process for journalists and defining who is and is not a member of the professional media — a definition that is drawn too narrowly and neglects the interests of academics, students and other researchers.

Taxpayer Cost of LePage’s Stay at Trump Hotel to Finally Be Released? | Portland Press Herald 1.7.19

“Right now the FOAA is a toothless thing that doesn’t impose any significant penalties,” says media law attorney Sigmund Schutz, who sits on the board of the New England First Amendment Coalition and represents the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram in public records issues. “It was designed for a more innocent time perhaps when you had state agencies responding to and prioritizing public records requests.”