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: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
LePage’s Handwritten Notes Show Failings in Maine’s Record Retention Law | Press Herald 8.17.15
“These handwritten notes are on the governor’s stationery and they are dealing with public business,” said Sigmund Schutz, a board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition and an attorney who represents the Portland Press Herald in cases involving FOAA. “As a general matter, if they’re not real personal – a birthday card, something like that – and they’re responding to constituent inquiries or communications, they’re public records.”
From Missouri to Iran, Press Freedom Under Attack | Providence Journal 8.13.15
…coalition executive director Justin Silverman said, “You would think that officials in Ferguson would have learned some lessons from what happened a year ago in how they treat journalists and the respect they have for reporters covering the news. But here we are, a year later, and now they’re being summonsed. I am surprised. I am disappointed. It really does show a disdain and lack of respect for journalists.”
Criminalization of Political Lies Overturned | Courthouse News Service 8.10.15
…the ruling has support from the American Civil Liberties Union, The New England First Amendment Coalition, The New England Legal Foundation and the Cato Institute, who all filed their won amicus briefs.
Editorial: A Clunker for the Ballot | Boston Herald 8.10.15
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, part of the 40-member coalition, said in a statement issued last week, “Had Secretary Galvin consulted with us, we would have expressed to him concern over using the petition process at this time, when a better alternative exists, and we would have asked him to change several provisions in his draft.”
High Court Dismisses Mannal Challenge | Cape Cod Times 8.6.15
Andy Sellers, a clinical fellow at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, which represented the New England First Amendment Coalition in the case, said the decision was a win for free speech because the law, which was rarely enforced, had language that was vague and could have been used to unjustly punish reporters quoting a potentially defamatory statement or writers of satire.
Advocates Criticize Galvin’s Public Records Proposal | Eagle Tribune 8.5.15
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said Galvin’s ballot question leaves out provisions of the bill backed by media representatives and open-government advocates. He said Galvin didn’t consult any groups supporting that bill before filing his petition, adding that Galvin’s question could make it “more difficult” to pass the pending bill. “I’m concerned this will be a distraction and counterproductive,” he said.
Lobbying Picks Up on Proposed Public Records Law | The Boston Globe 7.21.15
In a sign the battle is heating up, several groups that support greater government transparency struck back Monday with their own calls to contact lawmakers in defense of the public records bill. “Public records bill under attack! Help!” pleaded one e-mail from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Another from the New England First Amendment Coalition warned: “Legislation to improve access to Information at Risk.”
The 2015 Muzzle Awards | WGBH News 7.1.15
Along with the ACLU, a number of groups are fighting for [public records] reform, including the New England First Amendment Coalition. . . . A number of advocacy groups and media organizations opposed Healey [and her defense of an outdated law against false political speech], including the ACLU of Massachusetts and the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Healey Keeps a Campaign Promise | Salem News 6.15.15
“This is a very good step,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said in a release. “We applaud attorney general Healey for recognizing the need for enforcement when agencies charge unreasonable fees for public information.”
Alliance Lauds AG’s Enforcement of Public Records Law | Nashoba Publishing 6.12.15
“This is a very good step,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “We applaud attorney general Healey for recognizing the need for enforcement when agencies charge unreasonable fees for public information. We hope the legislature will also act to improve access for ordinary Massachusetts residents.”
Cambridge Police Release Policy on Use of Force | The Boston Globe 6.10.15
“The [Cambridge police department] now appears to be in the company of other police departments who acted in accordance with the state’s public records law,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, which supports expanded public access to governmental agencies and documents. “This type of transparency is essential in maintaining trust between the public and its law enforcement.”
Cambridge Police Refuse to Release Use of Force Policy | The Boston Globe 6.5.15
“The public needs to know how its law enforcement operates, particularly when it comes to the use of force against citizens,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, which supports expanded public access to governmental agencies and documents. “The public records law provides exemptions, but narrow ones that do not allow a police department to withhold documents based on vague concerns.”
New Bill Promises an Open Records Upgrade in Massachusetts | Sunlight Foundation 6.3.15
Under the current laws, Justin Silverman of the New England First Amendment Coalition pointed out: “Information [may be] public by law but in reality is unobtainable and essentially secret … It’s not clear who to contact to make a request for records. The records themselves cost too much. Litigation, most often the only way to force compliance with the law, is expensive and simply not an option for nearly everyone who contacts my organization looking for help.”
Closed Courtroom | The Providence Journal 6.1.15
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said there is “a presumption of openness in the courts” because “the public needs to know what’s happening” there.
Government Secrecy an Outrage | Salem News 5.28.15
As Justin Silverman, head of the New England First Amendment Coalition, told the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, “the ability to gather news and inform communities, to understand government and engage with elected leaders, is essential to the democratic process.” And yet, he continued, “in my role as executive director I regularly speak with journalists and community members from throughout the state who are frustrated at their inability to obtain information about their government — information that is public by law but in reality is unobtainable and essentially secret.”
Prosecutors, Defense Object to Closed Hearing in R.I. Sex-Trafficking Case | Providence Journal 5.28.15
“What’s concerning for me is that there’s a presumption of openness in courts,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the [New England First Amendment] Coalition, said. … “The public needs to know what’s happening in its courts.”
Technology Shift Should Not Block Access to Court Records | The Boston Globe 5.11.15
The situation prompted several media groups and organizations — including the New England First Amendment Coalition, the New England Press Association, and The Boston Globe — to formally oppose the deliberate blocking of online access to some statewide court records.
Mass. AG Will Defend Law Against Lies in Campaign Material | The Boston Globe 5.7.15
The statute impermissibly restricts the free speech rights of speakers in the Commonwealth, much like similar statutes in Minnesota, Ohio, and Washington struck by courts in recent years,” said the brief from a group led by the New England First Amendment Coalition. “Regulating false speech in the realm of elections, where free speech rights have their highest import, impermissibly allows the government to become the arbiter of political and social discussion.
Court To Weigh Law Barring False Statements In Campaigns | Associated Press 5.2.15
Among those weighing in on the lawsuit is the New England First Amendment Coalition, which includes lawyers, journalists and historians. The groups said the law could put publishers on the hook. “Newspapers routinely carry letters to the editor, advertisements, and other forms of third-party media,” the group wrote. “Under one reading of (the law), a newspaper could be responsible for any and all falsehoods in those pieces.”
Cameras in Courtrooms (video) | NENPA 4.27.15
Experts Criticize Marshals for Secret Arrests | Burlington Free Press 4.25.15
That is not the case under federal law, said Greg Sullivan, a First Amendment lawyer in New Hampshire. Sullivan pointed to a case he argued in 2011 when an agency picked up more than 2,000 people living in the country illegally who were committing crimes, including six in New Hampshire. The names were withheld in that case, too, he said, because federal law does not require disclosure. “It would be nice if there was a federal law that said when you arrest someone, you have to say who it is,” said Sullivan, a board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Public Records Decisions Questioned | Cape Cod Times 3.21.15
“We have done a great job during these seven days highlighting the need for public records reform,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, wrote in an email, “and I believe we have generated some momentum toward significant change. But that change will only occur if we continue to demand it. It’s up to all of us, every Massachusetts resident, to continue this conversation throughout the entire year and to help bring sunshine to the darkest corners of our government.”
Shining the Light on Public-Records Access | The Inquirer and Mirror 3.19.15
“Though the MassFOIA name is new, the partnership between NEFAC, the ACLU, Common Cause and MNPA goes back at least a couple years,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the NEFAC, said.
In Rhode Island, a Gag Order During Sunshine Week | Providence Journal 3.18.15
Some information about the proposed settlement has leaked out. But Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, “Any time any kind of gag order is in place it raises red flags because automatically there is information of public interest that the public is not receiving.”
Sunshine Week: Open is Best | Newton Tab 3.18.15
Justin Silverman, of Auburndale, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said whether an OML violation is intentional or resulting from a lack of training makes little difference. “Ultimately when it comes to the public’s right to know, it doesn’t matter,” Silverman said. ”The public’s right to know is paramount.”
Vigilance Required for Open Government | The Recorder 3.18.15
“Let’s take the opportunity this Sunshine Week to discuss the state’s public records law and make meaningful, yet common sense improvements,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “As winter-weary residents of Massachusetts, we’re all looking forward to more warmth and sunshine. When it comes to the public’s right to know, however, let’s make sure sunlight shines on our government all year round.”
Report: Mass. Gets ‘A’ on Spending Transparency | Statehouse News Service 3.18.15
Common Cause is joining with the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition to back legislation (H 2772) to modernize the state public records law. The law has not seen a substantial update since 1973.
Mass. Bills Target Barriers to Public Records | The Lowell Sun 3.16.15
“Most citizens, never mind most media organizations, don’t have the ability to litigate every public records request,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “There’s really no way to force those agencies to give those documents to the requester.”
News Outlets Fight to Keep Court Records Open | The Associated Press 3.16.15
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, which counts lawyers, journalists and historians among its members, points to lesser-known cases — from child-custody disputes to domestic-violence incidents — where news organizations across the region have lodged challenges, and, in many cases, won. “What makes me nervous is in these lower courts where you’re not able to get that media presence,” Silverman says. “What’s going unnoticed? What information is being sealed that we will never know about?”
Want to Access Government Info? Chances Are, It’ll Cost You | Concord Monitor 3.15.15
“The ability that some states have to stonewall the public with exorbitant fees or excessive delays is troubling,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “Unfortunately that happens very frequently.”
Group Pushes To Update Massachusetts Public Records Law | The Associated Press 3.14.15
Groups pushing for easier access to government documents are pressing Massachusetts lawmakers to pass a bill they say would modernize the state’s public records law. . . . The alliance includes the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Legislator Leads Push to Make Domestic Violence Arrest Records Public | Telegram & Gazette 3.14.15
And in the days of shrinking newsrooms where reporters are stretched thin, the risk increases that domestic abuse cases don’t get reported at all. “Without these logs, you’re relying on some kind of media presence in the courtroom when these people are arraigned. There’s often not a reporter in the courtroom,” [said NEFAC’s Justin] Silverman. “It really puts the public at a disadvantage in their ability to hold their officials accountable and know what’s happening in their community.”
Legal Experts Question FAA’s Move to GroundDrone Website | Portland Press Herald 3.14.15
“To force him to take down his website was a complete overreach,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “This seems like something the FAA really shouldn’t be involved in.” Silverman, a Massachusetts attorney, said that when the FAA regulations on drones are approved, they should pertain to the use of drones, not the advertising of their use.
Cheers, Jeers for Recent Newsmakers | Salem News 3.9.15
Cheers to retired judge Nancy Gertner, who has called for federal courts to be more transparent and open to the public. Speaking at the New England First Amendment Coalition’s annual awards luncheon, Gertner, who spent 17 years as a judge for the U.S District Court of Massachusetts, said it was time for federal courts to welcome cameras.
U.S. Shouldn’t Keep Families of Hostages in the Dark | The Boston Globe 3.3.15
Diane Foley, James Foley’s mother, made plain the additional pain families suffer at the hands of government intelligence and law enforcement officials. Last month, in a room full of journalists, she spoke before the New England First Amendment Coalition as she and her husband, John, accepted the 2015 Freedom of Information award on behalf of their late son.
Call for Court Transparency | Providence Journal 2.28.15
Courts often install security cameras to monitor what the public is doing. But when it comes to pointing cameras at judges so that the public can monitor what they are doing, courts often object. So it was absolutely refreshing to hear from Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge in Massachusetts who teaches at Harvard Law and who just received the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Freedom of information isn’t always easy to achieve, but this year’s New England First Amendment Coalition award recipients embody how passionate, well-known public figures and journalists have fought — and still fight — to deliver accurate and easily digestible information in the news media.
Veteran Correspondents Urge Journalists to Look Beyond Conflict | Huffington Post 2.24.15
The last few weeks have brought great momentum to this effort which is spearheaded by those of us who care about reporting on the ground, and who genuinely want to see the next generation of correspondents have opportunities to do work that matters in underreported corners of the world, and to do it safely. … The 2015 Freedom of Information Award was awarded by the New England First Amendment Coalition to Jim Foley who, as the organization stated, “relentlessly pursued the truth abroad.”
Media Must Remain Vigilant, Says Family of Slain U.S. Hostage | Providence Journal 2.23.15
I never knew James W. Foley, but I wish had. The New York Times reported those details — revealing both his ordeal and his character — in an Oct. 25 story headlined “The Horror Before the Beheadings.” And in Boston on Friday, I had the opportunity to talk with his parents, Diane and John Foley, after they accepted the Freedom of Information Award on their son’s behalf from the New England First Amendment Coalition.
‘Excessive’ Charge for Public Info | The Gardner News 2.21.15
“Massachusetts has one of the weakest public records laws in the country,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Judge, Journalist Killed By Islamic State, Activist Honored | Providence Journal 2.21.15
Three champions for the public’s right to know were honored Friday by the New England First Amendment Coalition. Their focuses might have been different — public access to the courts, open government, and the dogged pursuit of the crucial, but little told stories — but their commitment was the same. Each sought to expose the truth.
West Bridgewater Officials Keeping Police Settlement Payout Secret | The Enterprise 2.13.15
“They’re saying, even they were involved in (the discussion), that they weren’t privy to the actual settlement itself? That’s hard to believe,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “It’s hard to believe that with this being the town’s insurance policy, they’re not privy to a settlement made under that policy,” Silverman said.
R.I. State Police Revise Policy for Public Records | Providence Journal 2.11.15
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, called the policy an “improvement,” but said in an email that he was concerned that the state police would now record the descriptions of people asking for records. … “Under this policy, identification could occur based on appearance alone and individuals may be deterred from making requests,” Silverman said. “If a requester’s description is always recorded, then it also becomes possible to profile that individual, track him or her and the type of information requested, as well as the frequency of requests. This could provide state police an incentive to withhold certain information or, worse, discourage the requests from being made in the first place.”
R.I. State Police ID Checks at Barracks Thwart Open-Records Law | Providence Journal 2.2.15
“Requiring public record requestors to identify themselves violates the law,” said Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “State agencies should not be able to unilaterally decide which parts of the law they are going to follow. They are obligated to follow APRA and that means disclosing requested information without requiring identification first.”
Freedom for ‘Opinions that We Loathe’ | Providence Journal 1.25.15
On Jan. 14, French authorities charged a notorious comedian, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, with “glorifying terrorism” for a Facebook post that, to some, appeared to show support for the gunman who killed four people in a kosher market. The arrest came days after millions marched in support of Charlie Hebdo’s right to mock. “That’s difficult to reconcile,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “You have to be consistent as to the protections you provide.”
Eric Holder’s Crackdown on Leaks Chills Free Speech | The Boston Globe 1.21.15
Justin Silverman, a lawyer who is executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, noted in a recent e-mail interview that while the administration’s policy change is potentially beneficial, “we shouldn’t forget, though, the series of events that led to those revisions, the lack of transparency that still exists within the federal government, and the ongoing challenges this administration poses to journalists and the free flow of information.”
An Indelible Life: How Technology Keeps Dredging Up Our Past | Foster’s Daily Democrat 1.18.15
According to Justin Silverman, an attorney based in Westborough, Mass., and executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, once information is in the public domain it is virtually impossible to remove. Reputable publications and websites won’t remove information just because a reader requested it, he said. News about an eventual acquittal or dropped charges may also be added to the record, but doesn’t guarantee those viewing it won’t still see the original charge as being a black mark.
Kirby Delauter Was Here; #JeSuisCharlie | Providence Journal 1.11.15
“This is not only an attack on a particular individual or publication, it’s a strike against freedom of speech everywhere,” New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said. In the face of such attacks, we must resist the “temptation to clam up and self-censor,” he said. “The best response is to continue to speak freely, to report aggressively, to use satire and not be deterred.”
Maine Judge’s Gag Order Meets With Media Backlash | Maine Public Broadcasting Network 1.6.15
Justin Silverman of the New England First Amendment Coalition, says it’s critical that journalism organizations shine a light on these kinds of stories. “I think it’s always important for all media outlets to publicize cases like this, and not only call out the judges that make these orders, but also inform readers of the threats that exist to their access to information,” Silverman says.
Maine Judge Draws Flak From 1st Amendment Advocates After Issuing Gag Order | Bangor Daily News 1.6.15
“This order is a major strike to the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about its court system and those accused of crimes,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition in Westborough, Massachusetts, said Tuesday in an email. “It is pre-publication censorship and almost certainly an unconstitutional prior restraint. It is disappointing that a judge of this stature would disregard such fundamental First Amendment protections.”