Newbury Library Offers Press Freedom Program | The Daily News 9.24.18
The event is part of NEFAC’s Featured Speaker Program, which was launched in January to help increase First Amendment education in high schools, college classrooms and community centers. NEFAC recently presented to students at the University of New Hampshire; high school students in Bridgeport, Conn., and at the annual New England Scholastic Press Association conference at Boston University, among other New England locations and audiences.
Panelists at Framingham State Discuss the Importance of Free Speech | MetroWest Daily News 9.20.18
The university collaborated with the New England First Amendment Coalition in honor of Constitution Week, which ends on Sept. 23. The coalition’s mission is “to advance and protect the five freedoms of the First Amendment, and the principle of the public’s right to know, in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont,” according to its website.
High School Journalists Fight for Their Right to Report | Reason 9.19.18
The students contacted the Student Press Law Center, which confirmed that the students’ actions were legally protected. The Vermont Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition also released a joint statement demanding that Green and the administration release and publish the story.
High School Editors Win First Amendment Battle | Burlington Free Press 9.19.18
Mike Donoghue, first vice president of the New England First Amendment Coalition and president of the Vermont Press Association, said the post was fair. Donoghue is a former Free Press reporter. “There was no interpretation or slant. They wrote a factual report based on public documents,” Donoghue said on Friday. He added that he was impressed with the professionalism of the students’ work.
High School Students Use New Voices Law to Win Censorship Dispute | Student Press Law Center 9.18.18
On Sept. 13, the Vermont Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition released a joint statement condemning Green’s “ill-advised demand” to remove the article. The VPA and NEFAC demanded that: (1) The article be re-published on the BHS Register website. (2) The Burlington School District and school administrators agree in writing to follow the New Voices legislation. (3) The Burlington School District agree to work with the VPA to sponsor First Amendment training for northwestern Vermont school districts. (4) The Burlington School District and the Burlington High School administration write a formal apology to the staff of the BHS Register. That same day, Green reversed his decision to remove the story.
The Vermont Press Association and New England First Amendment Coalition said in a joint statement that this “can be a ‘teachable moment,’ not only for Burlington School officials, but students, educators and school board members across the state.”
First Amendment Group to Host Forum at FSU | The Metrowest Daily News 9.15.18
In honor of Constitution Week, the New England First Amendment Coalition will present a discussion about the First Amendment and freedom of the press on Wednesday at the McCarthy College Center Forum, on the campus of Framingham State University.
Censorship in Burlington | Bennington Banner 9.14.18
The Vermont Press Association, of which this newspaper is a member, and the New England First Amendment Coalition, whose mission this newspaper supports, have issued a statement sharply criticizing the Burlington School District and its high school administration for censoring the story. The VPA and NEFAC are asking for corrective steps, including reposting of the story, a commitment to follow state law protecting student journalists and their advisors; training for area school districts in upholding that law; and written letters of apology from Superintendent Yaw Obeng and Principal Noel Green.
Residents Rebuke Burlington School Officials Over Guidance Department Controversies | Seven Days 9.14.18
Mike Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association, told the board the VPA and the New England First Amendment Coalition condemn the district and its administration for ignoring a recently passed Vermont law designed to ensure First Amendment protections for student journalists. He called for district leaders to undergo training on the law and First Amendment issues. The VPA and NEFAC are also asking Obeng and Green to write letters of apology to the student journalists for misunderstanding an important law.
VPA’s Lisa Loomis and NEFAC’s Justin Silverman on High School Censorship | Caledonian Record 9.14.18
The Vermont Press Association and New England First Amendment Coalition condemns the Burlington School District and its High School administration for ignoring an important Vermont education law enacted to ensure First Amendment protections for journalism students and teacher/advisers. The condemnation comes after BHS Principal Noel Green made an ill-advised demand that an accurate news story in the student-run newspaper, The Register, be removed from its website on Tuesday. The story focused on the Vermont Agency of Education filing six counts of unprofessional misconduct charges against BHS Guidance Director Mario Macias.
Burlington High Editors Say School District Broke Vermont Law | WVNY/WFFF 9.14.18
Also on Thursday, the Vermont Press Association released a statement calling on Burlington School District to: (1) Repost the news story about the investigation immediately to the Register website and let it remain in the archive (2) Agree in writing to follow the Vermont law known as “New Voices” that ensures the First Amendment for students and teachers/advisers without fear of retaliation (3) Work with the Vermont Press Association and other First Amendment groups to sponsor training for at least northwestern Vermont school district leaders so there is not a repeat performance in Burlington or a nearby school (4) Write letters of apology to the student journalists for misunderstanding/misinterpreting an important student education law.
Did BHS Break the Law By Censoring Student Newspaper? | WCAX 9.14.18
In a statement Thursday, the district says Principal Noel Green asked paper staff to remove the story finding that it meets an exception to the law by “substantially disrupting the ability of the school to perform its educational mission.” But the Vermont Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition says that reasoning doesn’t apply to the law. … The Vermont Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition are asking northwestern Vermont school leaders to receive training on these types of issues and for administrators to apologize.
The Vermont Press Association and New England First Amendment Coalition said Green’s request for the students to remove the story was without merit. It said the school’s decision to censor the students’ work violated Vermont’s “New Voices” law, that’s aimed to protect student journalists from retaliation when breaking or covering such stories.
In a Reversal, Burlington Principal Allows Students to Publish Story | VTDigger 9.13.18
The Vermont Press Association and New England First Amendment Coalition released a joint statement on Thursday, demanding the Burlington School District, superintendent Yaw Obeng and principal Green write apology letters to the student journalists “for misunderstanding/misinterpreting an important student education law. ” The groups are also calling for the district and top administrators to agree in writing to follow the New Voices law and work with VPA and other First Amendment groups to sponsor training for northwestern Vermont school district leaders so a similar situation does not happen again.
Burlington Principal Reverses Course, Allows Students to Publish Story | Seven Days 9.13.18
Also Thursday, the Vermont Press Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition released a statement condemning the censorship and blasting Green for his “complete misinterpretation of one section of the law.” The organizations also suggested four corrective steps, including having Green and Superintendent Yaw Obeng write letters of apology to the students. “The VPA and NEFAC believe this can be a ‘Teachable Moment’ not only for Burlington School officials, but students, educators and school board members across the state,” the groups wrote.
Principal Reverses Decision on Posting of Misconduct Story | Associated Press 9.13.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Vermont Press Association on Thursday criticized the article’s removal and called for more education for administrators on the new law.
Open State Government? Not So Fast | State House News Service 9.13.18
The Special Legislative Commission Regarding Public Records met for the final time Wednesday to hear testimony on ways to improve the transparency of state government. The ACLU, Common Cause, MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the Pioneer Institute, and the New England First Amendment Coalition all testified.
WPRI Investigative Reporter White Opens Bosworth Lecture Series | East Bay RI 9.11.18
He serves on the board of directors for the New England First Amendment Coalition, a Boston-based group that aims to defend, promote and expand public access to government and the work it does.
Boston Public Library: Fall Author Talks and Lectures to Check Out | Boston Patch 9.7.18
A panel of First Amendment experts from the New England First Amendment Coalition discuss your rights as laid out by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution on Thursday, September 27, at 5:30 p.m. at the Parker Hill Branch, located at 1497 Tremont Street in Mission Hill.
Jones Might Be in for a Constitutional Surprise | The Providence Journal 9.3.18
But it is also worth remembering that the First Amendment prohibits the government (as opposed to private entities) from abridging freedom of speech, said First Amendment lawyer Gregory V. Sullivan, a New England First Amendment Coalition board member and general counsel for the Union Leader Corporation. “If it isn’t the government, it isn’t the First Amendment,” Sullivan said. “We participate in social media under the rules that the private companies set for us, and if we don’t like the rules, we don’t have to participate.” Some argue Facebook is so large that it is in effect a public square, but he said, “The public square is owned by the public. These are private companies.” Sullivan noted that the First Amendment does not protect all speech. For example, it doesn’t protect obscenity and it doesn’t protect defamation. “Plus, there are torts that come to mind,” he said. “If I were representing a family who lost a child in a school shooting and some guy says that is fake, these kids were not shot, I’d sue the guy for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
CT Journalists to Focus on First Amendment, Press Freedoms | Connecticut By the Numbers 8.23.18
Erica Moser was told, “newspapers are a dying industry,” when she began classes at Northeastern University in Boston in 2011. Since June a higher education and business reporter for the Day of New London, Moser will be back on campus in Boston next month as one of four Journalism Fellows from Connecticut selected to participate in the New England First Amendment Institute, organized by the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Nesi’s Notes | WPRI-Providence 8.18.18
Congratulations to Kim Kalunian, WJAR-TV’s Parker Gavigan and The Providence Journal’s Brian Amaral on being named to the class of fellows for the 2018 New England First Amendment Institute.
The Item’s Bridget Turcotte is a 2018 New England First Amendment Fellow | The Item 8.17.18
Item reporter Bridget Turcotte is one of 25 journalists selected to attend the 2018 New England First Amendment Institute. The three-day conference, run each year by the New England First Amendment Coalition, provides a select group of young journalists with the opportunity to learn skills and techniques used in investigative journalism.
Local Newspapers Call for an End to Attacks on Media | WFFF-Burlington 8.16.18
“I think it’s a little bit overdue. I think the newspapers, not only in Vermont but across the country, have been a little complacent in the good they have done for over 200 years,” said Mike Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association. Donoghue has been a journalist in Vermont for half a century. He says he’s received death threats for doing his job. “It’s a thing you live with every day,” he said. Organizations he helps lead, including the VPA and the New England First Amendment Coalition, supported the idea of the pro-press editorials.
Hamblett Joins NEFAC Board of Directors | Providence Business Journal 7.27.18
Christopher “Topher” Hamblett, president and founder of The Foundation for West Africa, was recently named to the New England First Amendment Coalition’s board of directors. Hamblett previously served in the Peace Corps as a volunteer from 1985-87 in Sierra Leone.
Attacks on the Media (audio) | WPRO 7.6.18
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, discusses the recent attack on the Annapolis, Maryland Capital Gazette newspaper, and the shift in mood in the country following mounting attacks on the press by the President and others.
AG Ordered to Pay Legal Fees for Records Denial | Valley News 7.4.18
VtDigger, the publishers of Burlington-based Seven Days and the Caledonian-Record of St. Johnsbury, and the New England First Amendment Coalition joined Toensing as friends of the court in a case that led to a unanimous Vermont Supreme Court ruling last October saying that records responsive to a request under the law must be turned over, even if they are stored within a public official’s personal email or text files.
Just Doing Their Jobs | Caledonian Record 7.3.18
As New England First Amendment Coalition Executive Editor Justin Silverman explains: “Journalism, the profession loved by those lost this week, is more a cause than a career. It’s an allegiance to the truth. It’s a commitment to providing citizens the information they need to make educated decisions about their communities and government. It is a mission vital to our democracy and one that’s enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.”
The 2018 New England Muzzle Awards | WGBH 7.3.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition, the ACLU, the Society of Professional Journalists, and other organizations later issued a statement demanding that the city provide more media access to speakers at future demonstrations. The role of police officers at such events, after all, is to ensure public safety — not to censor unpopular speech.
National Grid Protesters Escorted Out of Lowell City Hall | Lowell Sun 6.27.18
Lowell’s proposed amendment to public participation at council meetings reads: “No demonstration of approval or disapproval from members of the public will be permitted (including, but not limited to signs, placards, banners, cheering, clapping, booing, etc.) and if such demonstrations are made, the gallery or public seating area will be cleared. “Further, there shall be an established Free Speech Zone, to be located on the grounds of City Hall,” the amendment continues. “The areas, as designated by the Superintendent of Police, shall be clearly marked with signage and boundary markers.” The council at a recent meeting voted to send those proposed rules changes to the Rules Subcommittee. The executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition has called these proposed rules changes an overreaction to what happened.
Attorney: Disclosure Would Disrupt Negotiations | Kennebunk Post 6.15.18
Sigmund Schutz, a former attorney for the Maine Press Association who still represents many media clients, offered a different opinion. Schutz is also a long-time board member of both the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition and the New England First Amendment Coalition, as well as co-author of the 2011 Maine Open Government Guide. “By not releasing the approved contract,” Schutz said, the RSU 21 Board of Education is, “effectively blocking the public from knowing anything about the expenditure of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds until it’s too late for the public to weigh in. That’s not how democracy’s supposed to work. The public is supposed to be able to find out what public officials are approving at or before the time they approve it. This is exactly the sort of thing that FOAA (Maine’s Freedom of Access Act) was enacted to prevent.”
Groups Say ‘Revenge Porn’ Legislation Raises Free Speech Concerns | Providence Journal 6.4.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition, other media groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island are calling on Gov. Gina Raimondo to again veto “revenge pornography” legislation that they say could criminalize publishing newsworthy photos involving nudity…“Our coalition takes very seriously the privacy interests at stake with revenge pornography legislation,” wrote Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, in a letter to members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. “These interests, however, need to be protected in a way that does not infringe on the First Amendment rights provided by our Constitution.”
38 Studios Debacle is R.I.’s Watergate | Providence Journal 6.4.18
New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said, “Six years and millions of dollars later, we still don’t know everything about 38 Studios. Rhode Island residents deserve a full accounting of what happened and why. That’s the only way we can make sure a similar debacle doesn’t happen again.”
Grandson Says Aunts Nixed Pricey Pickup | Union Leader 5.29.18
Judge David King unsealed the interrogatories late last week in the court case he is overseeing in Concord Probate Court. He did so after the New Hampshire Union Leader and the New England First Amendment Coalition filed court action calling for their disclosure.
Legislation Would Shield Trooper Data from Public View | The Boston Globe 5.24.18
“This bill will make it harder for us to keep public officials accountable,” said Justin Silverman, an attorney and executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “It’s limiting access to information needed to identify those who aren’t acting in our interest. We need more than a name.”
Lowell Council to Study Limits to Public Protests | The Lowell Sun 5.23.18
On Monday, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition called these proposed rules changes an overreaction to what happened last week. Executive Director Justin Silverman called it a “restricted speech zone.”
Lowell City Council to Weigh Proposals to Prevent Unruly Interruption | The Lowell Sun 5.22.18
However, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition called this proposal an overreaction to what happened last week. “It’s not a free speech zone. It’s a restricted speech zone,” said Executive Director Justin Silverman. Residents should be very concerned any time speech is limited, he stressed. “I’m very skeptical whenever those types of zones are used and restrictions are imposed,” Silverman said. He also criticized the part of the policy that restricts signs and banners; those aren’t disruptive behaviors, the executive director said. The city can impose reasonable restrictions so hearings can proceed and city business can be taken care of, he said, but this goes well beyond any reasonable restrictions, Silverman added. “We don’t even know where the zone is going to be,” he said.
Records Unsealed in Inheritance Suit Against Former Middletown Man | The Middletown Press 5.20.18
“This is a big win for open government,” Attorney Justin Silverman, executive director of the Massachusetts-based New England First Amendment Coalition, said in a press release. “Now we can monitor this high-profile case with little secrecy.”… NEFAC, which defends, promotes and expands public access to government and the work it does, according to its website, requested the court provide an opportunity for an oral argument in support of unsealing the documents. NEFAC supported the reporter’s motion in an April 10 memorandum submitted to the court, and filed a motion to intervene. “The courts of New Hampshire have always considered their records to be public, absent some overriding consideration or special circumstance,” attorney Gregory V. Sullivan, speaking on behalf of the coalition and the Union Leader, said in the memorandum. He is a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors. “The Union Leader and NEFAC have since filed multiple motions asserting that no substantial reason has been offered to justify placing the exhibits under seal,” the judge wrote, according to the release. “The court concludes that the public’s right to access to court records would be unreasonably restricted if those documents remain under seal,” it concluded.
NEFAC to Discuss First Amendment, Press Freedom | Fairhaven Neighborhood News 5.17.18
NEFAC to Discuss First Amendment, Press Freedom at The Millicent Library in Fairhaven, Mass. The New England First Amendment Coalition will present a panel discussion on freedom of speech and the press on May 23 at Millicent Library, 45 Center St., Fairhaven, Mass. The discussion, titled “The First Amendment, Freedom of the Press and the Right to Read,” will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature several prominent constitutional experts and former journalists. The program is free and open to the public.
Judge Vogel Criticizes Journal for Still Pursuing First Amendment Case | Providence Journal 5.16.18
Lawyer Thomas W. Lyons appeared before Judge Keough on Monday during a hearing in the case on behalf of the ACLU; the New England First Amendment Coalition; the Rhode Island Press Association; Nexstar Media Group, which owns WPRI-TV; and Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns WJAR-TV. Lyons said the issues raised in the complaint are vital to all news organizations: “My clients want to know if they have access to jurors, just like The Providence Journal, moving forward.”
Millicent Library in Fairhaven to Host First Amendment discussion | The Standard-Times 5.15.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition will present a discussion on freedom of speech and the press on May 23 at Millicent Library, 45 Center St. The discussion, titled “The First Amendment, Freedom of the Press and the Right to Read,” will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and will feature constitutional experts and former journalists, according to a news release. The program is free and open to the public.
Karen Bordeleau, president of the New England First Amendment Coalition and a former executive editor of The Providence Journal, discusses the lawsuit. Bordeleau said an order from Superior Court Judge Netti Vogel barring access to the jury was not normal procedure for the court.
Judge Delays Decision on Media Access to Jury Case | Courthouse News Service 5.14.18
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the New England First Amendment Coalition, the New England Newspaper and Press Association Inc. and the Rhode Island Press Association came out in support of The Providence Journal’s lawsuit.
Providence Journal Sues Court for Access to Jurors (audio) | RI NPR 5.14.18
Karen Bordeleau, president of the New England First Amendment Coalition and a former executive editor of The Providence Journal, discusses the paper’s lawsuit against a judge, following a high-profile murder trial.
Judge Reverses Directive Barring Media from Contacting Jurors Case | Narragansett Times 5.11.18
On top of the statement made by the ACLU and the lawsuit filed by The Journal, NEFAC had also expressed “grave concerns” about the directive, calling the judge’s order “overboard and unconstitutional.” On behalf of the coalition and the New England Newspaper & Press Association, attorney Robert A. Bertsche explained that orders similar to the ones given by Judge Vogel had been rejected by other courts. “Post-trial access to jurors in a criminal trial is essential to the press and public’s right to report to the public about the workings of the judicial system,” wrote Bertsche, a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors.
Court Papers Detail Finances of Man Accused By His Aunts of Murdering His Grandfather | Union Leader 5.9.18
King unsealed the records in response to a request last month by the New Hampshire Union Leader and the New England First Amendment Coalition.
ACLU of RI, Media Organizations File Brief Supporting Providence Journal | Providence Journal 5.9.18
The friend of the court brief was submitted on behalf of the ACLU; the New England First Amendment Coalition; the R.I. Press Association; Nexstar Media Group, which owns WPRI-TV; and Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns WJAR-TV.
Facing Journal Lawsuit, Judge Lifts Ban on Contacting Jurors | Providence Journal 5.8.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition, the New England Newspaper and Press Association Inc., the Rhode Island Press Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island all expressed grave concerns with Vogel’s ban. … “Post-trial access to jurors in a criminal trial is essential to the press and public’s right to report to the public about the workings of the judicial system,” said lawyer Robert A. Bertsche, representing the First Amendment Coalition and the newspaper association.
Rhode Island Judge Lifts Order Barring Juror Contact | Associated Press 5.8.18
The New England First Amendment Coalition, the New England Newspaper and Press Association Inc., and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island backed the paper.
Our View: Council Emails are the Public’s Business | Salem News 5.7.18
“Any time more than a quorum discusses public business, they are crossing the line of Open Meeting Law,” said Peter Caruso, a media attorney and board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “If one or two councilors would communicate with each other, that’d be fine, but if you have one communicating with a quorum, that raises an eyebrow. Such a move, Caruso said, suggests councilors are “trying to conduct public business in secret.”
Judge Rules Nathan Carman Doesn’t Need to Address Alleged Gun Purchase | Keene Sentinel 5.4.18
King’s order to unseal trust documents came in response to a petition by the Union Leader and the New England First Amendment Coalition, a group that advocates for open government. The documents had been sealed when the lawsuit began in July, “in large part due to the absence of objections,” King wrote. … Gregory V. Sullivan, the attorney representing the Union Leader and the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, “The court recognized New Hampshire’s long tradition of openness regarding court records.” Sullivan noted he would continue to review aspects of the case that have not been disclosed, including the redacted portions of King’s order.
NEFAC’s Tim White discusses a recent order by a Rhode Island judge that bans members of the public from speaking to jurors in a completed criminal trial.
Journal Files Challenge of Judge’s Order Not to Contact Jurors | Providence Journal 4.30.18
In a letter Monday afternoon to Keough, The New England First Amendment Coalition and The New England Newspaper and Press Association Inc. asked to be heard in the case as well. Both organizations, whose missions include protecting the five freedoms of the First Amendment and promoting open government, have “grave concerns” with Vogel’s actions, wrote their lawyer Robert A. Bertsche. “Post-trial access to jurors in a criminal trial is essential to the press and public’s right to report to the public about the workings of the judicial system,” Bertsche said, noting that similar orders from judges had been struck down as unconstitutional. Quoting from one Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Bertsche said, “Since the trial had concluded, there was no possibility that allowing the jurors to speak to newsmen would deprive [the defendants] of a fair trial.” And as far as protecting jurors from harassment, “we also fail to see a clear and present danger. The jurors individually, perhaps, may not regard media interviews as harassing….The district court’s order, by depriving the media of the opportunity to ask the jurors if they wished to be interviewed, was clearly erroneous as a matter of law.”
Judge Sued for Saying Reporters Can’t Contact Jurors — Ever | WPRI 4.30.18
“We have the right to ask questions,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said in a statement. “It’s a freedom protected by the First Amendment and essential to our understanding of the court system. This gag order amounts to a prior restraint which our constitution simply doesn’t allow.” The New England First Amendment Coalition also sent a letter in support of The Journal to Associate Justice Maureen Keough, who is hearing the challenge to Vogel’s orders.
Sinclair ‘Promo’ Illustrates Dangers of Media Consolidation | Providence Journal 4.29.18
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, “By forcing news anchors to express an opinion that’s not their own, Sinclair is eroding the trust we have in our local journalists. These promos ultimately make it more difficult to distinguish corporate dictate from genuine news reporting. Viewers are left to wonder whether their trusted news anchors are working in the public’s interest or merely serving as a mouthpiece for their employer. When that line is blurred, the entire broadcast is tainted.”
Council Emails Violated Open Meeting Law | The Salem News 4.27.18
Peter Caruso, a longtime media attorney and board member at the New England First Amendment Coalition, said violations of Open Meeting Law exist when discussions on an issue take place outside of a posted public meeting. “Any time more than a quorum discusses public business, they are crossing the line of Open Meeting Law,” Caruso said. “If one or two councilors would communicate with each other, that’d be fine, but if you have one communicating with a quorum, that raises an eyebrow.” That suggests “they’re trying to conduct public business in secret,” Caruso said.
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.