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 written about us during the current year. Coverage from previous years can be seen here: 201520142013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

Release of the Winooski Shooting Video (audio) | WDEV Radio 9.22.16

NEFAC’s Mike Donoghue discusses the public interest in disclosing the Winooski shooting video.

Transparency Group Calls For Release Footage (audio) | VPR-Vermont Public Radio 9.21.16

But what happened in the final moments of his life still hasn’t been fully explained by police, and the New England First Amendment Coalition is calling on authorities to release body camera footage of the incident so the public gets an objective view of what happened. Mike Donoghue is the vice president of the organization, and he says police regularly release footage during investigations. “When there’s a bank robbery, when there’s assaults, when there’s store burglaries, they’re frequently turning over video that’s going to be, quote, ‘evidence,'” Donoghue says.

Advocacy Groups Pressing for Release of Body Cam Video (audio) | WAMC-Northeast Public Radio 9.21.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition is pushing Vermont law enforcement officials to make the video immediately available to the public.  Coalition Executive Director Justin Silverman says the goal is transparency and assurance that law enforcement is working in the public interest. “Particularly in the national climate  that we have now with the additional scrutiny on police shootings we believe that it was of particular importance to have this footage released so the public would have a better understanding of the shooting, what occurred, how the police responded, and be able to determine whether or not law enforcement acted appropriately.”

Embrace Transparency on Body Cams | Caledonian Record 9.21.16

Yesterday, meanwhile, the New England First Amendment Coalition called on police to release the footage. “As more officers throughout the region begin using body and dash cams, it’s necessary for police departments to set a standard of transparency and trust,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “In police shooting cases such as this, there is a need for credibility and camera footage provides an important source of information for the public. The recordings in this case should be released as soon as possible so the public better understands how the shooting occurred and how law enforcement reacted.”

ACLU, NEFAC Call for Release of Body Cam Footage in Winooski Shooting | VTDigger 9.21.16

In a statement Tuesday, the New England First Amendment Coalition called on the Vermont State Police, the Winooski Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department to make public footage related to the shooting of Jesse Beshaw. . . . “As more officers throughout the region begin using body and dash cams, it’s necessary for police departments to set a standard of transparency and trust,” NEFAC executive director Justin Silverman said in a statement.

Group Urges Release of Video from Fatal Police Shooting | WCAX-Burlington 9.20.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition say that video should be released as quickly as possible so the public better understands how the shooting occurred and how law enforcement reacted.

NEFAC Pushes for Release of Winooski Shooting Video (video) | WFFF-Burlington 9.20.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition is pushing police to release body cam footage of Friday’s officer involved shooting in Winooski. The group says police must set the standard of transparency and trust. . . . NEFAC says the footage will give the public better understanding of how officers reacted when they say 29-year-old Jesse Beshaw advanced toward them with his hands behind his back. Beshaw was pronounced dead at the scene. “Only the video is going to be able to tell the public as to whether the police acted 100 percent responsible, and I would think if I was the officer or if I were the investigators, I’d want that out there as quick as possible,” says NEFAC vice president, Michael Donoghue. Donoghue notes the video would also reveal how police responded to Beshaw immediately after he was shot.

First Amendment Group Seeks Release of Police Video of Shooting (video) | WPTZ-Burlington 9.20.16

There are a lot of questions,” said Mike Donoghue, vice president of the New England First Amendment Coalition and a veteran Vermont crime reporter. “If the police and prosecutor had stood up before the cameras, like they do everywhere else, they would have been asked and answered and not leave it in doubt in the public’s mind as to what happened and what didn’t.”

Group Seeks Release of Video from Winooski Police Shooting | Associated Press 9.21.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition has requested that Vermont law enforcement officials make the video captured during Friday’s fatal shooting of 29-year-old Jesse Beshaw available to the public. Mike Donoghue, the coalition’s vice president, says there are a lot of questions, especially because police and prosecutors have yet to hold a press conference to address the shooting.

Transparency Group: Cops Should Release Winooski Shooting Video | Seven Days 9.20.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition wants officials to release body camera videos of the incident so the public can evaluate Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicolas Palmier’s decision to open fire on Jesse Beshaw, 29, after a brief foot chase Friday evening in downtown Winooski. . . . “As more officers throughout the region begin using body and dash cams, it’s necessary for police departments to set a standard of transparency and trust,” NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. “In police shooting cases such as this, there is a need for credibility and camera footage provides an important source of information for the public. The recordings in this case should be released as soon as possible so the public better understands how the shooting occurred and how law enforcement reacted.”

Police Refuse to Release Winooski Shooting Footage | Burlington Free Press 9.20.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition is calling on Vermont law enforcement to release body camera footage from last Friday’s officer-involved shooting in Winooski. . . . The New England First Amendment Coalition, a group that works to advance public access to government, is urging law enforcement to release the footage as quickly as possible. “As more officers throughout the region begin using body and dash cams, it’s necessary for police departments to set a standard of transparency and trust,” said the group’s executive director, Justin Silverman, in a statement Tuesday.

FBI Should Never Impersonate Journalists | The Providence Journal 9.17.16

New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said, “Having government officials — particularly those in law enforcement — go around impersonating members of the press very much undermines the ability of reporters to gather the news, gain the trust of sources and build relationships with the communities they cover.”

One State is Trying to Defend a Ban on Voters Posting Photos of Their Ballots Online | Reuters 9.13.16

“Any activity that increases civic engagement among younger voters should be recognized as a universal social good,” wrote the New England First Amendment Coalition and the Keene Sentinel newspaper in a brief supporting the challenge to the law, which allows for a fine of up to $1,000 for ballot selfies.

Cady Brings the Experience and Fire to Fight | Concord Monitor 9.12.16

Still, Cady will forever be known for her never-ending battle to pry information loose. She’s been dubbed Mrs. Right to Know by some, and she was honored last year by the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Importance of Defending the Dunce | Caledonian Record 9.3.16

Meanwhile a group of New England journalism associations have lined up in support of a journalist’s right to shield sources. The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition all signed an amicus brief urging Judge Saris not to compel Weasel and Beck to give up their informants.

Massachusetts Media Stands Up for Glenn Beck | Boston Magazine 8.12.16

Boston has learned that media lawyer Jonathan Albano (who famously worked with the Boston Globe as its Spotlight team investigated clergy sex abuse in the city and has represented many other outlets) recently penned an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief arguing for the judge not to make Beck spill the beans on his informants. The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition also signed off on the brief, which among other things urges the court to consider the implications to a free press.

Deadly Public Health Prescription | Caledonian Record 8.12.16

We agree with Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Center, “While these changes are intended to protect the privacy of individuals, they are neither necessary nor helpful to the public’s response to infectious disease outbreaks. Worse, they may jeopardize the safety of those who would otherwise learn of potential risks to their health.”

R.I. House Minority Caucus Joins Call for Release of 38 Studios Probe Records | The Providence Journal 8.10.16

It sent a letter Wednesday to Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight, to reconvene in order to subpoena and release the documents. Days earlier, ACCESS/RI, the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and the New England First Amendment Coalition sent a letter to Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and state police Col. Steven G. O’Donnell urging the same.

Warwick, Cranston Mayors Join Call for Release of 38 Studios Documents | The Providence Journal 8.4.16

Others calling for Kilmartin to reconsider include House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello as well as ACCESS/RI, the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

AG Kilmartin Under Growing Pressure to Release 38 Studios Documents | WPRI 8.2.16

The statement from Raimondo’s office came hours after five organizations – ACCESS/RI, the ACLU of RI, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the New England First Amendment Coalition – released a public letter to Kilmartin and O’Donnell calling their rationale for keeping the material under wraps “less than compelling.”

Open Government Groups Urge Release of 38 Studios Details | Associated Press 8.2.16

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the New England First Amendment Coalition and other groups on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Rhode Island State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell, urging them to disclose the documents.

Five Groups Call for Release of Material from 38 Studios Investigation | RI NPR 8.2.16

The request was made by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; Common Cause of Rhode Island;  Access/RI; the state chapter of the League of Women Voters; and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Open Government Groups Call for Release of 38 Studios Docs | The Providence Journal 8.2.16

ACCESS/RI; the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union; Common Cause Rhode Island; the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island; and the New England First Amendment Coalition on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and Rhode Island State Police Col. Steven G. O’Donnell urging that given the “extraordinarily strong public interest” in the case that documents should be disclosed.

Groups Call on Kilmartin to Release 38 Studios Records | GoLocalProv 8.2.16

The five groups – ACCESS/RI, the ACLU of RI, Common Cause RI, the League of Women Voters of RI, and the New England First Amendment Coalition – stated: “[T]he disaster known as 38 Studios happened because of a deeply ingrained culture of secrecy in this state. The official state investigation into that disaster should not perpetuate that culture.”

Post Reporter Barred from Trump-Pence Rally | The Providence Journal 7.30.16

New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said: “Trump’s crusade against journalists needs to end. Whether this reporter attended the event as a member of the media or as a private citizen, access should have been provided. Cherry-picking an audience is a campaign interest, not a public interest.”

Media Groups Support Mark Boal’s Refusal To Turn Over Bergdahl Tapes | Deadline 7.30.16

News organizations from across the country have signed an Amicus Brief in support of Mark Boal’s refusal to hand over to military prosecutors his taped interviews with accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. . . . The full list of signators includes . . . New England First Amendment Coalition.

Keeping Information Secret Can Make Disease Outbreaks Worse | Bangor Daily News 7.26.16

Such restrictions run counter to the American Public Health Association’s recommendations for sharing information during disease outbreaks, the New England First Amendment Coalition noted in comments opposing the rules changes, which it called “neither necessary nor helpful.”

Freedom of Information Act Turns 50 Thanks to ‘LBJ’ | Mass Live 7.24.16

Also in June, the state of Maine, after protests filed by the New England First Amendment Coalition and other open-government groups, suspended a new policy that had prohibited public access to closed criminal cases. The judicial branch policy had required that all records of dismissed criminal cases, except those involving a plea deal, become automatically confidential 30 days after dismissal, the coalition said. “The policy seriously undermined the First Amendment and the public’s right to know,” the coalition said.

States Debate Privacy Protections as Technology Speeds Ahead | Stateline 7.1.16

Companies that produce some of the new technologies, such as the makers of education software and drones, fear the restrictions will stifle innovation and commerce. Others, such as Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, say some of the restrictions, such as those on drones, body cameras and “revenge porn” — nude or sexually graphic images shared without consent — may infringe on free speech protections.

Raimondo Vetoes ‘Revenge Porn’ Bill | North Kingston Standard-Times 6.24.16

“Revenge porn is an issue that clearly needs to be addressed. But this isn’t the solution,” said Justin Silverman, Executive Director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “Privacy needs to be protected in a way that does not deter journalists from reporting stories that are in the public’s interest.”

Raimondo Issues First Veto, Over ‘Revenge Porn’ | WPRI 6.21.16

The bill, which cleared the General Assembly last week, was backed by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. Supporters said it was designed to punish individuals who distribute sexually explicit material without the consent of everyone involved. But watchdog groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the New England First Amendment Coalition had urged Raimondo to veto the bill, describing it as unconstitutional, and in the end the governor agreed.

Gov. Raimondo Vetoes ‘Revenge Porn’ Bill | Associated Press 6.21.16

After failing to persuade lawmakers to stop the bill, which passed unanimously through the Senate and on a 68-1 vote in the House, groups including the New England First Amendment Coalition and the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union began publicly calling for a veto last week.

Free-Speech Groups Urge Veto on Rhode Island ‘Sextortion’ Measure | Reason 6.20.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Press Association are urging Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to veto a new measure meant to deal with “revenge porn” and “sextortion.”

Trump’s Press Enemies List Grows | Providence Journal 6.18.16

“If how he responds to the press is any indication of how he may lead the country as president, we can expect what little transparency remains from the Obama administration to disappear entirely,” said New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman. “Throughout the entire campaign, he has considered the Fourth Estate an enemy and vowed to weaken First Amendment protections. He’s shielding himself from scrutiny, and that should trouble anyone who values open government and accountability. Regardless of anyone’s political allegiance, the First Amendment and the role of the press is something we should all be rallying around.”

Watchdog Groups Urge Raimondo to Veto ‘Revenge Porn’ Bill | Associated Press 6.16.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition, the ACLU, and the Rhode Island Press Association said Thursday that while well-intentioned the bill passed by the state House and Senate is so “breathtakingly broad” in its reach that it criminalizes activity involving neither revenge nor porn, for example, legitimate news stories, and people viewing or sharing widely publicized nude images they didn’t create.

In Reversal, Judge Rules City Hall Subpoenas Can Remain Secret | The Boston Globe 6.15.16

The law enforcement memorandum will also remain confidential under the ruling and has not been shown to lawyers for the city or the Globe. The secrecy troubled Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “There’s something wrong when a court strongly endorses transparency and declares records to be public, just to later allow those records to be withheld for secret reasons,” Silverman said in an e-mail.

Pawtucket on ‘Bad Run’ with Police Records Access | Providence Journal 6.2.16

“This is a bad run for Pawtucket,” New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said. “I am still scratching my head.” Obviously, there was no arrest in the murder/suicide, but the city can still release records, Silverman said. “And whose privacy would be invaded with two individuals who are dead? When a crime occurs in a community, those who live in the community are entitled to know about that crime and the parties involved.”

Judge Rules for Courthouse News in Long-Running Battle Over Access | CNS 5.27.16

A host of news organizations have supported the CNS position by submitting amicus briefs. They include The Associated Press, The American Society of News Editors, Association of Alternative News Media, Dow Jones & Company, The E.W. Scripps Company, First Amendment Coalition, First Look Media Works, The McClatchy Company, New England First Amendment Coalition, News Corp, National Press Photographers Association and Radio Television Digital News Association.

Governor Should Swiftly Sign Public Records Bill Into Law | South Coast Today 5.27.16

According to the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance, a coalition of open government groups Common Cause, ACLU of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and New England First Amendment Coalition, the following changes would come to the field of open records with the governor’s signature . . .

Massachusetts Bans Photos in the Voting Booth | Mass Live 5.3.16

“Political speech is a ‘core’ concern of the First Amendment and protection of speech is never stronger than when the speaker is addressing political or government issues,” said NEFAC, a nonprofit based in Westborough.

Snapchat Wages Legal Battle Over Right to ‘Ballot Selfies’ | MSNBC 4.29.16

Snapchat is taking a stand against a ban on “ballot selfies.” The popular social media platform filed a brief in New Hampshire last week, supporting an ACLU suit that advocates for a voter’s right to take and share photos of their completed ballots in the voting booth. Two other groups, the New England First Amendment Coalition and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, filed briefs as well.

Snapchat Wants to Make Your Voting Selfies Legal | Cosmopolitan 4.27.16

Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, agrees with Snapchat. . . . The reason it’s important to legalize voting booth photography surpasses the right to selfie, Silverman argues. “More importantly, it’s about keeping the system honest, and documenting the election process and quickly identifying flaws that might be on the ballot and being able to share them quickly and easily with other voters.”

Are Post-Vote Ballot Selfies a First Amendment Right? Activists, Snapchat Says So | Inquisitr 4.27.16

Snapchat, the New England First Amendment Coalition, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined forces to file amicus briefs (documents filed by parties interested in the case, which tell the court information and arguments they may want to think about) in New Hampshire on Friday. . . . Such selfies could, in theory, expose issues as well, “keeping the system honest, and documenting the election process and quickly identifying flaws… and being able to share them quickly and easily with other voters,” said Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Why New Hampshire’s Ban On Ballot Selfies Is A Threat To Freedom Of Expression | WGBH 4.26.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition has filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief laying out the case against the selfie ban. Filed in conjunction with the Keene Sentinel and prepared by the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School, it is a humdinger. Over the course of 34 pages, the brief ranges from a John Oliver comedy routine to show that concerns about voter fraud (the alleged reason for the ban) are vastly overblown to the social impact of images depicting civil-rights demonstrators being attacked in Selma, Ala. The heart of the brief, though, is a forceful argument that ballot selfies are a form of political speech and therefore deserve the highest level of constitutional protection. “Political speech is a ‘core’ concern of the First Amendment,” the amici write, “and protection of speech is never stronger than when the speaker is addressing political or governmental issues.

Selfies in the Voting Booth? Snapchat Fights for the Right | The New York Times 4.26.16

Those opposed to photography bans say concerns about vote-buying are overblown. “There isn’t much evidence, if any at all, that this kind of activity is actually occurring,” said Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. It was one of three organizations to file amicus briefs on Friday, along with Snapchat and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. No one wants to see vote-buying, but in combating that murky threat, officials have placed real restrictions on First Amendment rights, Mr. Silverman said. Millennials and other active social media users use photos as a fundamental part of how they communicate and ought to be able to express their excitement at participating in democracy, he said. Whether a selfie with a completed ballot or an artistic shot of the booth, an Instagram or Snapchat post can be as much a part of expressing civic pride as an “I Voted” sticker. Mr. Silverman said the image of a goofy selfie with a ballot has obscured what he described as more serious benefits of allowing photography, like serving as an alert system for confusing ballots. “More importantly, it’s about keeping the system honest, and documenting the election process and quickly identifying flaws that might be on the ballot and being able to share them quickly and easily with other voters,” he said.

Mayor’s Stubborn Stance on Technology is Costing Wallingford | Record Journal 4.25.16

If the mayor believes that social media are good for nothing more ‘serious’ than sharing funny cat videos, it might be helpful if he considers some of the other things you can find via Facebook and other social media. You can discover interesting, in-depth articles from The Atlantic, The Economist, The Smithsonian and other ‘serious’ publications; useful health, fitness and cooking ideas; panel discussions held by the New England First Amendment Coalition . . .

Op/Ed: R.I. Court Deals Blow Against Public | Providence Journal 4.20.16

A recent Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling will have government watchdogs scratching their heads and chasing their tails. NEFAC board members Karen Bordeleau and Tim White, and Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, wrote this column addressing the anti-transparency decision.

Tough Week for Open Records in Rhode Island | Providence Journal 4.16.16

“This decision is a blow to transparency in Rhode Island,” the New England First Amendment Coalition’s Justin Silverman said. “It put a burden on the public to show evidence of government wrongdoing before it can obtain the records that may show that wrongdoing. This type of reasoning will have Rhode Island watchdogs chasing their tails.”

Body Camera Debate: Privacy vs. Transparency | Union Leader 4.16.16

And there’s the rub, says William Chapman, a Concord attorney and board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition. He said the privacy exemption is too broad. He’d like to add these words: “unless a court orders the recording or portion to be disclosed.” . . . “There might well be situations that constitute an invasion of privacy but are central to knowing whether law enforcement acted properly,” Chapman said in an email. “My concern is that without the amendment I proposed, asserting invasion of privacy will carry the day,” he said. “Law enforcement will assert it if the private individual doesn’t.”

TGIF: 19 Things To Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media | RINPR 4.15.16

The state Supreme Court sided against the Providence Journal in a decision this week regarding access to a state police report from a graduation party involvingLincoln Chafee’s son in 2012. As Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, “This ruling flips the public records law on its head. It puts the burden on journalists to show government wrongdoing before they can access the documents needed to look for that wrongdoing.”

Body Cameras Will Become Standard, But Finding Funding Is Still Difficult | CT News Junkie 4.12.16

Gaunichaux was joined on the panel by James H. Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information and a member of the New England First Amendment Coalition Board of Directors; Leonard Boyle, the deputy chief state’s attorney for Connecticut, a former director of the Terrorist Screening Center for the FBI in Washington, D.C.

R.I. Supreme Court Denies Journal Access to Chafee Police Records | Providence Journal 4.11.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition took a counter view. “This ruling flips APRA on its head,” executive director Justin Silverman said. “It puts the burden on journalists to show government wrongdoing before they can access the documents needed to look for that wrongdoing. … Rhode Island residents need to know that their law enforcement is working with integrity and without preference to elected officials or their children. This decision denies the public that opportunity.”

R.I. High Court Tells Journal It Can’t Have Chafee Records | WPRI 4.11.16

The Journal’s executive editor David Butler said they share the same disappointment as the ACLU — and the New England First Amendment Coalition — in the court’s decision to weigh privacy rights over the public’s right to know how a police investigation has been conducted.

Freedom of Speech Issue Exposed in Andover, Thanks to a Yeti | Concord Monitor 4.10.16

“It is an interesting First Amendment set of issues,” said Gregory V. Sullivan, a law professor in Boston and the legal counsel for the New England First Amendment Coalition. “And I do think the guy’s art work is protected by the First Amendment.” . . . “I would say what you’re looking at here is some political artwork that is protected by the First Amendment,” Sullivan said. “And that is not obscene. What’s obvious right away to me is what we’re looking at is political satire.”

Woman Steals Intimate Part of Bigfoot Silhouette | Fox 25 4.10.16

“I would say what you’re looking at here is some political artwork that is protected by the First Amendment,” Gregory V. Sullivan, a law professor in Boston and the legal counsel for the New England First Amendment Coalition told NH1. “And that is not obscene. What’s obvious right away to me is what we’re looking at is political satire.”

No Joke: A Yeti and His Penis Take on the First Amendment | NH1 4.9.16

“I would say what you’re looking at here is some political artwork that is protected by the First Amendment,” said Gregory V. Sullivan, a law professor in Boston and the legal counsel for the New England First Amendment Coalition. “And that is not obscene. What’s obvious right away to me is what we’re looking at is political satire.”

NEFAC Panel Discussion on Police Body Cameras and FOI Laws | CT-N 4.8.16 (video)

As police departments around the country increasingly use body cameras, many questions arise about access to these video records under FOI laws and how journalists can use the videos ethically. NEFAC conducted a panel discussion of issues related to the use of body cameras at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn. Jim Smith, a coalition board member, moderated the panel.

Coaxing One’s Suicide Protected Speech | Boston Herald 4.8.16

“The speech at issue here is abhorrent, but that doesn’t mean it should be criminal,” said Justin Silverman, head of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “When we punish a speaker based on the actions of an audience, we risk silencing other voices that should be heard.” When family members of a terminally ill patient discuss suicide, Silverman asks, is that conversation illegal if the loved one takes their own life? Expanding criminal liability too far for one awful case could have dire and unintended consequences for others.

Obama’s Words on the Press Ring Hollow | Providence Journal 4.2.16

“The president is right that journalists need to dig deeper, ask tough questions and provide a broader context,” New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said. “The problem is that his administration makes it difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish those goals.” He noted that NEFAC gave its 2014 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award to The New York Times’ James Risen, a former Providence Journal writer who faced the prospect of prison for refusing to reveal a source, and Obama prosecuted more leak-related cases than all previous administrations combined. Can it get worse? Well, Donald Trump talks of changing libel law to make it easier to sue the press. “To have a presidential candidate even saying those things makes any First Amendment proponent concerned,” Silverman said.

Media Groups File Brief in Support of CNS First Amendment Action | Courthouse News Service 3.28.16

“The First Amendment affords the public and the press a right of access to civil complaints, a right that attaches upon filing,” said the amicus brief on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a host of media organizations. Those organizations include the The Associated Press, The American Society of News Editors, Association of Alternative News Media, Dow Jones & Company, The E.W. Scripps Company, First Amendment Coalition, First Look Media Works, The McClatchy Company, New England First Amendment Coalition, News Corp, National Press Photographers Association and Radio Television Digital News Association.

Op/Ed: How Much Sunshine Will Massachusetts Legislators Let In? | Gatehouse Media 3.17.16

It’s Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of transparency in government. Freedom of information advocates throughout the country are reminding communities about their right to obtain public records and the need to make those records more accessible. Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, wrote this column to acknowledge the occasion.

Let the Sunshine In: Right To Know Weakest Locally | Union Leader 3.17.16

At this week’s Sunshine Week panel co-hosted by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and the New England First Amendment Coalition, House Speaker Shawn Jasper agreed with a suggestion that New Hampshire add a “loser pays” clause for Right To Know challenges.

Granite Status | Union Leader 3.16.16

First Amendment attorneys, journalists, activists and residents heard a progress report on New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law Tuesday night at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications as part of Sunshine Week. The panel discussion, co-presented with the New England First Amendment Coalition, included review of efforts to improve access to public information and recovery of costs related to appeals when requests are denied.

Public Information Stories Traded at Right-to-Know Event | Concord Monitor 3.16.16

From a panel discussion on the state’s right-to-know law Tuesday, Rick Gagliuso said he hoped there would be at least two takeaways. First, the attorney and New England First Amendment Coalition board member wanted the audience gathered at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in Manchester to remember: Those public records that you’re seeking to inspect, with a few exceptions, belong to you and not the board or agency they’re about. “You have to start with the proposition that those records are ours. Too many boards and agencies and officials around the state still have the notion that . . . ‘They’re mine,’ ” he said.

Open Government is Focus of Right-to-Know Discussion | Union Leader 3.15.16

The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and New England First Amendment Coalition presented the free discussion . . . “Those are our records that we’re asking for,” said Rick Gagliuso, an attorney and board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “Yes, there are some gray areas, and yes, there are some exemptions, but you have to start with the proposition that those records are ours.” First Amendment attorney [and NEFAC board member] Gregory V. Sullivan moderated the panel . . .

Secrets and Scandals: Reforming Rhode Island 1986-2006 | GoLocalProv 3.7.16

The new law followed the federal Freedom of Information Act in “balancing” the public’s right to know against a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Backers included the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, the Rhode Island Press Association, the New England First Amendment Coalition, and Common Cause, whose executive director John Marion called the balancing test “a huge leap forward.”

Takedown of News Photographer Shameful | Providence Journal 3.5.16

“That kind of takedown belongs in a wrestling ring,” New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said. “It appears to be a completely unnecessary use of force against a journalist who was just taking photos of the rally. But who’s surprised that this occurred at an event where reporters are confined to a small press area like pigs in a pen and then often ridiculed?” . . . “While the photographer could have handled himself more professionally, cursing out a security guard doesn’t justify being choked and slammed into the ground,” Silverman said. “Candidates need to allow journalists to do their job. This incident doesn’t reflect well on anyone, including Trump, who has already expressed disdain for the media.”

Leahy: First Amendment in Forefront of Constitution | NENPA 3.3.16

“Actually, to me, the First Amendment is the most sacred part of our Constitution,” Leahy said at the New England First Amendment Coalition Awards Luncheon Friday, Feb. 19,. “It’s the foundation of our democracy and our way of life.”

State Rules Police Can Withhold Video of Incident with Patriots Player | The Boston Globe 2.24.16

Last October, the Supreme Judicial Court overruled a decision by Galvin’s office that a parent of a special needs child was not entitled to documents showing how much the Town of Weston was paying to educate other students with special needs. “They were totally unhelpful in my case,” said the parent, Michael Champa, who was honored last week by the New England First Amendment Coalition for his legal fight. He said the court battle cost him more than $100,000 in legal fees.

Sen. Leahy Honored; Recalls His Waterbury Roots | Waterbury Record 2.25.16

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., received the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award last Friday from the New England First Amendment Coalition. Leahy has been a powerhouse in promoting and defending the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Sen. Leahy Receives First Amendment Award | WVNY 2.23.16 (video)

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy received an award today from the New England First Amendment Coalition. The senior senator received the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award at a ceremony in Boston today.

Supreme Court Battle Renews Focus on Other Nominations | Roll Call 2.22.16

“I have served in the Senate for more than four decades, and on the Judiciary Committee for 36 years … ” Leahy said in a speech before the New England First Amendment Coalition. “During my time on Committee, we have never refused to send a nominee to the full Senate for consideration. I expect Senate Republicans to uphold this bipartisan tradition for the next Supreme Court nominee.”

Leahy Says Senators Should Not Serve If Afraid to Vote | The Boston Globe 2.19.16

Leahy said it would “diminish the country” and the Senate and set a dangerous precedent if Republican leaders refuse to allow hearings and a vote on a presidential nominee, leaving a vacancy on the nation’s highest court for more than a year. Leahy made his remarks after receiving an award from the New England First Amendment Coalition for his work to strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act and improve transparency within the court system.

Leahy Presses GOP in Court Fight | The Hill 2.19.16

The Vermont senator noted that more than a dozen nominees to the high court have been confirmed in presidential election years and urged his colleagues not to break this tradition. “It is false to say that Supreme Court justices do not get confirmed in presidential election years,” he said in remarks delivered to the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Leahy Receives First Amendment Award | Burlington Free Press 2.19.16

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., received an award Friday in Boston that recognizes his work over many years in support of the First Amendment. The New England First Amendment Coalition presented Leahy with the 2016 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award at a luncheon at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston.

Sen. Leahy To Be Recognized By ‘First Amendment Coalition’ | Herald of Randolph 2.18.16

The New England First Amendment Coalition will present U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy with its 2016 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award on Friday in Boston.

Leahy to Receive First Amendment Award | Vermont Digger 2.16.16

The award, bestowed by the New England First Amendment Coalition, comes as Leahy prepares for a Senate battle with Republicans over nominating a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Strong Open Records Bill Emerges from Senate | The Recorder 2.2.16

“This Senate bill will help restore respectability to our public records law,” said Justin Silverman from the New England First Amendment Coalition. “It will make it easier for residents to obtain information in a timely, cost-efficient way. It will provide recourse for those who are unjustly denied information and help keep communities informed. This legislation is a big step toward returning transparency to Massachusetts.”

At What Price? Increasing Cost of Open Government | Union Leader 2.1.16

The Union Leader joins the Nashua Telegraph, the New Hampshire Press Association, ACLU-NH, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, the New Hampshire Coalition for Open Democracy, New Hampshire Right to Life and the New England First Amendment Coalition in opposing HB 1611. Our government should not use fees to limit our right to know.

Foxboro Police are Shrouded in Suspicion for Handling of Incident | Boston Herald 1.14.16

“Modifying police logs after the fact not only defeats the purpose of the state’s Public Records Law, but it invites mistrust between communities and their law enforcement,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “The law needs to be followed by all custodians even if the information released is embarrassing or involves a public figure.”