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: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
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.”
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.
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 12 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.”
“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.”