Coalition Joins Newsrooms Throughout State to Demonstrate the Public’s Right to Know
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CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | email@example.com
The New England First Amendment Coalition and a group of news organizations in Maine are continuing to demand the release of localized COVID-19 case data, information now provided by every other state in the region.
The coalition and other open government advocates wrote to Gov. Janet Mills and Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, on April 27 explaining the public interest in release the data.
“Access to more information on numbers of COVID-19 cases by specific location would have direct public health benefits, by allowing the public to better prepare and take precautions,” wrote attorney Sigmund Schutz, a NEFAC board member, on behalf of the organizations. “It would also serve to enhance public confidence in Maine’s response by replacing rumors and suspicion with solid data.”
NEFAC and newsrooms throughout the state last week further increased pressure on government officials to release the data by submitting identical public records requests. The coordinated effort intends to demonstrate the right of citizens to know how many cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified in their communities.
As of this morning, NEFAC has not received a response to its records request.
“Employers want to know,” she added. “People want to know. This seems like information we all need to know to make good decisions about ourselves and our families. It’s a people issue as much as it is a press issue.”
Demanding more COVID-19 data is just one example of how NEFAC is helping to educate and keep communities informed during this public health crisis. Other efforts include:
• Providing First Amendment experts and journalists to educators throughout the region to help with the increase in remote classes.
• Explaining the responsibilities of government during the pandemic despite technological “learning curves.”
• Offering free online classes on the First Amendment and open government during times of public crisis.
• Calling for more detailed coronavirus case data in Massachusetts.
• Supporting a free legal hotline for New England journalists covering the pandemic.
• Writing an op/ed for The Boston Globe that spotlighted the increasing secrecy within all levels of government.
• Expressing concern over Rhode Island’s decision to suspend the state’s open meeting law.
• Joining more than 100 open government advocates to demand transparency and opportunities for public oversight during the health crisis.
• Reminding New England governors that news organizations are essential businesses and should be allowed to operate during state-wide lock-downs.
• Calling on Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo to provide more access to journalists covering her daily briefings on the pandemic.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.