Transparency Should Apply to Beacon Hill, Too | Eagle-Tribune 4.24.18
“The very people who are in charge of making those recommendations are the ones who would be most affected by the reforms,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “You’re essentially asking legislators on their own to agree to be more transparent and share more information. That’s a hard sell.”
Advocates Push to Open Legislature’s Records | Gloucester Times 4.23.18
“Our hope is that this commission doesn’t turn out to be a measure to placate public records advocates, but that it comes out with some strong recommendations that are actually acted on,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. Still, Silverman said he’s skeptical the process will lead to a more transparent legislative branch.”Because the very people who are in charge of making those recommendations are the ones who would be most affected by the reforms,” he said. “You’re essentially asking legislators on their own to agree to be more transparent and share more information. That’s a hard sell.”
1st Amendment Advocates Seek Transparency in Nathan Carman Case | The Middletown Press 4.20.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition, which defends, promotes and expands public access to government and the work it does, is requesting the court provide an opportunity for an oral argument in support of unsealing the documents…“The courts of New Hampshire have always considered their records to be public, absent some overriding consideration or special circumstance,” attorney Gregory V. Sullivan said in a prepared statement on behalf of the coalition and Union Leader. He’s a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors.
First Amendment Coalition Seeks to Unseal Carman Documents | Brattleboro Reformer 4.12.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC) is fighting an effort to keep judicial records sealed in a case involving Nathan Carman, a Vermont resident being investigated for the murder of his wealthy grandfather and the disappearance of his mother. Family members are suing Carman in a New Hampshire probate court to prevent him from collecting his mother’s share of their estate. The court last month ordered all documents in the case to be sealed. A reporter from the New Hampshire Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., objected to the order and filed a motion to unseal the documents. NEFAC supported the motion in a Tuesday 10 legal memorandum submitted to the court.
Pot Boss: No Need to Name Names | Boston Herald 4.11.18
“You have 20 companies that were secretly given priority status for a brand-new industry and given a leg up, and the public has no idea who these companies are, what their backgrounds are, and has been provided no opportunity to object,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “That’s very troubling.”
Seal Kept in Place for Harvard Affirmative-Action Case | Courthouse News Service 4.10.18
Eric Penley with the New England First Amendment Coalition meanwhile applauded this approach. “She’s clearly very concerned that the parties not withhold lots of stuff that shouldn’t be redacted,” Penley said in an interview after the hearing. “We thought it was a good result that she is following the law in the First Circuit, which is that there is a presumption in favor of public disclosure of filings with the court.”
Lawmakers Refuse to Release Records | CommonWealth Magazine 4.10.18
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said the reach of the Public Records Law should be expanded to all parts of state government. “When it comes to transparency, we need more than just lip service from our government officials,” Silverman says. “We simply can’t trust officials to be forthcoming with information on their own.”
On Records, State Police All About Delay | CommonWealth Magazine 4.9.18
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, sees it differently. He called the agency “notoriously secretive” and added that “while it’s encouraging to see requesters winning on appeal, it’s disappointing that so many appeals need to be made in the first place.”
DOJ, Free Speech Groups Want Harvard Bias Suit Public | Law360 4.6.18
“The U.S. Department of Justice, the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, and newspaper owner GateHouse Media LLC submitted amicus briefs Friday.”
A coalition of Massachusetts media organizations and press advocacy groups on Friday also urged the judge to reject Harvard’s request to keep broad categories of records in the case under seal and instead allow documents to be shielded from the public “only if inescapably necessary.” The groups wrote in a letter to the judge that their “concern is not whether Harvard’s admission process violates federal civil rights law, but instead that judicial records shedding light on this dispute — which is of exceptional public importance and community interest — remain open to the public.” The letter was signed by the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and GateHouse Media LLC.
Judge Sides with Foster’s in Jailhouse Interview Case | Foster’s Daily Democrat 4.3.18
In a statement released Tuesday, the NEFAC wrote that the state’s attempt to compel the release of unpublished work product is a “troubling” request and “an affront to the First Amendment.” If the motion was granted, the NEFAC claims it would’ve emboldened other prosecutors to “make similar unnecessary motions” that would “certainly diminish the integrity of our press.” “If prosecutors can freely compel journalists to testify, newsrooms would be hamstrung by the needs of courtrooms,” the NEFAC wrote. “There simply wouldn’t be enough time or resources for journalists to effectively do their job while also answering the calls of prosecutors.” That’s a significant concern given the news industry’s financial struggles, according to the NEFAC. The NEFAC pointed out that nearly two-thirds of the editors who participated in a 2016 Knight Foundation study said media outlets are less able to pursue legal activity around First Amendment issues than they were a decade ago. The majority of those respondents, according to the NEFAC, said it’s due to the fact that they “lack the money to do so.” “Meanwhile, those uncontested demands for information chip away at the wall between the free press and the government,” the NEFAC wrote. “For watchdog journalists, that wall is vital. The First Amendment provides the freedom to seek out information about the government and to hold leaders accountable. But that freedom becomes worthless if journalists are perceived as agents of the government they are tasked with monitoring.”
Raynham Police, Bristol DA Attempt to Block Release of Crash Video | The Enterprise 3.25.18
Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, which advocates for government transparency and the public’s right to know, said police departments releasing such video footage, even when criminal charges are possible, is common. It’s often the case when a department is seeking the public’s help in solving a crime. “We need to see what happened,” said Silverman. “As the supervisor twice determined, there’s a public interest in monitoring the actions of our law enforcement. The videos should have been released. But even if the law didn’t require their release, the police still could have provided them. Rather than claiming an exemption, departments often release surveillance video when it is in their own interest to do so. Ultimately, we need to know how this crash occurred and who was responsible. These videos could help provide that information.”
A Democrat Tried to Get Records, Got a Bill for $245,000 | The Boston Globe 3.25.18
Journalists “are still getting whacked,” said Peter Caruso Sr., an Andover attorney who represents a number of local news organizations and is board member for the New England First Amendment Coalition. “They are still paying what I consider to be outrageous fees.”
A Condemnation of Threats to Openness and Accountability | Stowe Reporter 3.22.18
Among organizations signing this document: National LGBTQ Task Force, National Security Archive, New England First Amendment Coalition, Union of Concerned Scientists, Society of Professional Journalists, American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and the International Union of Concerned Scientists.
Sunshine Week Celebrates Open Government | Athol Daily News 3.13.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition has joined advocates, including news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others advocating for the public’s right to know. The coalition sponsors events and publishes blog posts to address transparency issues in every New England state. It has temporarily changed its familiar blue logo to a sun in honor of the public awareness campaign.
Panels to Focus on Freedom of Information Laws for ‘Sunshine Week’ | Union Leader 3.11.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition and Right to Know NH will present two New Hampshire panel discussions this week on the state’s freedom of information laws in recognition of Sunshine Week, a national initiative promoting open government.
How Public Records Requests Helped Teens, But Still So Much To Do | Telegram & Gazette 3.11.18
Gondres and Clinton shared their story last month during the New England First Amendment Coalition’s annual awards luncheon in Boston. Along with fellow honorees Jane Mayer of The New Yorker and Todd Wallack of The Boston Globe, these two students provided a prelude to Sunshine Week and a reminder of why government transparency is so valuable to our communities.
Area Colleges Hit, Miss in Public Access to Crime Logs Under Laws | Telegram & Gazette 3.11.18
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said he sees a problem with public record laws, in general, with respect to “the inconsistency of which the law is actually followed.” He said the infrequency of requests isn’t an excuse for the institutions. “It might be good to note that there may not be any bad intentions at play here,” Mr. Silverman said. “But ultimately, the law requires these crime reports to be released and complied with. If you have staff members that are rusty or unfamiliar with the law, or need additional training, it’s the responsibility of the university to provide that training and make sure that the law is complied with. It helps to get that explanation of why you’re not getting those reports. But it’s an explanation, not an excuse.”
Virginia’s FOIA Helps Keep Government Records Accessible | Richmond Times-Dispatch 3.10.18
When I get together with my counterparts in other states — such as the Florida First Amendment Foundation, Open Oregon, the New England First Amendment Coalition, or the Ohio Coalition for Open Government — I often imagine us as residents of a nursing home sharing our ailments. We nod and tsk-tsk as we exchange tales of the latest abuse of our open government laws.
Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award | Jamaica Plain Gazette 3.9.18
The Hyde Square Task Force received the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel on Feb. 23.
Sunshine Week: Right to Know Forum to Be Held in Littleton | Caledonian Record 3.9.18
In recognition of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote open government, the New England First Amendment Coalition and Right to Know NH will present a panel discussion in Littleton on the state’s freedom of information laws.
Sunshine Week: How You Can Join In | Union Leader 3.8.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition and Right To Know NH are teaming up for a pair of panel discussions on freedom of information in the Granite State.
State Seeks Unpublished Jailhouse Interview in Sexual Assault Trial | Fosters Daily Democrat 3.7.18
Attorney Gregory Sullivan, who is representing Seacoast Media Group in the matter, filed a response Feb. 7 in which he argued the qualified reporter’s privilege applies in both civil and criminal cases and that the New Hampshire Supreme Court and others have “long recognized that a government that requires the press to produce to it unpublished materials degrades the autonomy and independence needed by the press to fulfill its role in educating and informing the citizenry.” Sullivan, a member of the New England First Amendment Coalition, also cited First Amendment concerns while arguing that other courts have ruled that the release or breach of a journalist’s confidential information can have a “chilling effect” on the gathering of information.
Newspapers Take Biddeford to Court Over Effort to Curb Deliveries of Free Papers | Press Herald 2.21.18
Nashwa Gewaily, a media and First Amendment attorney for the Massachusetts-based New England First Amendment Coalition, said the organization is “deeply troubled” by the ordinance and encouraged the city to rescind or substantially modify it. “Biddeford does a disservice to newspapers, donor-supported charities, and community organizations in equating all freely delivered printed or written material with unsightly debris that ought to be promptly discarded,” Gewaily wrote in an Oct. 17 letter to city officials. “More harmfully, it does so with regulations too burdensome and unreasonable to effectuate its purpose in a way that would pass constitutional review.” The question of whether pamphlets or newspapers left on personal property are litter or literature has been argued for centuries in the United States, including in U.S. courts. Gewaily cited a 1998 Illinois court ruling that invalidated an anti-littering, press-implicating rule and said “tossing a newspaper onto a private yard is different than tossing a discarded hamburger wrapper onto that yard.” The letter from the coalition also said the financial burden placed on media organizations and individuals is “exorbitant and excessively punitive.”
Healey, City of Boston Appeal Ruling to Release Mug Shots | The Boston Globe 2.20.18
“It’s disappointing to see the pushback on transparency,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit based in Westborough. “We need to hold our police officers accountable. The public needs assurance that police are upholding laws and not breaking them.”
First Amendment: Dispelling ‘Fake News’ Claims a Bi-Partisan Battle | Providence Journal 2.7.18
New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said the term “fake news” is now being used to describe news or opinion that people simply dislike. “It’s used to denigrate the Fourth Estate by distorting honest mistakes and eroding the confidence we have in journalism,” Silverman said. “President Trump, the highest ranking government official in our country, is using it as a tool, a way to convince us — the people — that we don’t deserve the freedoms given to us by the First Amendment.” “Instead of ‘fake news,’ we should instead be discussing the great, necessary work of journalists throughout the country — whether exposing sexual assaults in Michigan or racial inequities in Rhode Island — that holds those in power accountable,” Silverman said, referring to The Indianapolis Star’s investigation into USA Gymnastics and The Providence Journal series “Race in Rhode Island.”
Barring Press from Baker’s Latino Advisory Commission Meeting Was an Outrage | The Republican 2.1.18
That didn’t convince Peter Caruso, an attorney with the New England First Amendment Coalition. For one thing, members of the media are also members of the public. If for no other reason, they should be allowed entry because of that. “The whole spirit of the open meeting law is to avoid secrecy surrounding decisions and public policy debate,” Caruso said. “This was a public meeting on public property about an issue of public interest,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the coalition.
Decision to Bar Press from Commission Meeting Angers First Amendment Advocates | The Republican 1.31.18
Peter Caruso, an attorney who specializes in media law and a board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said a meeting cannot distinguish between the press and the public. If members of the public are allowed to attend, members of the press must be allowed to attend, too, Caruso said, adding: “If the public is allowed into an open meeting, the press is the public.” Caruso said barring the press from a meeting that is open to the public “is antithetical to the open meeting law in Massachusetts.” “The whole spirit of the open meeting law is to avoid secrecy surrounding decisions and public policy debate,” Caruso said. Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said the press should not have been excluded. “This was a public meeting on public property about an issue of public interest,” Silverman said. “Journalists should have been allowed to cover the discussion and share with others what this commission is doing on behalf of Latino communities. Instead, we lost an opportunity to better understand how this commission works and to hear the ideas, suggestions and concerns shared by fellow residents.”
Conviction Over Threatening Facebook Post Upheld | Boston Herald 1.28.18
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said parsing true threats on social media strikes a complicated balance. “What may appear to be a true threat could instead be hyperbole or artistic expression,” he said. “It’s not always easy to determine one from the other, especially in the context of social media, where there are large audiences of different backgrounds and sensibilities.”
‘The First Amendment Needs Allies’ | The Newport Daily News 1.22.18
The topic “could not be more timely,” said Edward Fitzpatrick, who spent 29 years in daily journalism as a reporter, an editor and, most recently, a former columnist for The Providence Journal. He addressed an audience of more than 50 people to kick off this year’s “Second Hour” series. Now the director of media and public relations at Roger Williams University, he is on the boards of director of the New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island.
Affiliated Faculty Elected NEFAC President | The Berkeley Beacon 1.22.18
Karen Bordeleau plans to extend the organization into more classrooms to educate the public on their First Amendment rights as president of New England First Amendment Coalition. The regional nonprofit elected Karen Bordeleau, affiliated faculty member at Emerson College, to be their president in January.
Jim Foley’s Legacy: Press Freedom and Advocacy for US Hostages Overseas | WPRI-Providence 1.18.18
In 2015 James Foley was posthumously awarded the New England First Amendment Coalitions’s Freedom of Information Award.
Billerica Neighbor’s Word May Be Offensive, But Lawsuit Would Be ‘Challenge’ | Lowell Sun 1.16.18
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, also used a neighbor eyesore as an example. If a neighbor’s unattractive political signs make it difficult for an abutter to sell their home, the neighbor with the signs is protected by the First Amendment, Silverman said. “Government officials can’t tell that person to keep quiet,” he said. “That would really undermine the whole point of the First Amendment.”
Details of Investigation Into Alleged Misconduct Under Wraps | The Essex Reporter 1.10.18
That’s a “disturbing” justification for secrecy, said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, a Massachusetts-based group that fights for public access to government. Silverman said the trustees’ primary responsibility should be to constituents, who have a right to know whether their public employees, whose salaries they pay, are performing jobs appropriately. The village has spent $3,250 on the personnel matter so far, a cost that will increase once it receives all legal invoices. “When there’s misconduct, we need to know about it,” he said. . . . Silverman, the First Amendment attorney, said there’s no way to trust an investigative process if the public doesn’t know how officials conducted it. He said officials not only need to be upfront about the allegations, but also how they respond to them. That will allow residents to judge if the response was appropriate and the investigation was conducted correctly — without favoritism or any other questionable behavior. “We’re not able to do that if we’re kept in the dark about some very basic parts of the investigation like what was alleged, or even more broadly, what policy we are dealing with,” Silverman said. Such secrecy strains the public’s trust, he added, because most people instinctively assume government is hiding something. At that point, people are left to guess.
Groton Resident Elected NEFAC President | The Bulletin 1.9.18
Karen Bordeleau, of Groton, recently was elected president of the New England First Amendment Coalition. Bordeleau is a retired executive editor of The Providence Journal. She now teaches journalism in the U.S. and abroad. She has served as a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes in 2015 and 2016. Bordeleau is past president of the New England AP News Executives Association and the New England Society of Newspaper Editors.
In Billerica, a War of Words Over Sal’s Pizza Project | Lowell Sun 1.5.18
The First Amendment protects offensive speech, according to Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. Even if a word offends some people, an individual is allowed to write it on his/her property. The person crosses the line when the language incites violence, Silverman said. “But if it’s merely offensive, the First Amendment protects that type of speech,” he said. “We want to be able to speak our minds without the government telling us we can’t. “It may be hard to tolerate and we may not all agree with it, but it’s all protected by the First Amendment,” Silverman added.