New England First Amendment Coalition
August 2020
Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post and the former public editor of The New York Times, will speak at the 10th annual New England First Amendment Institute.

Sullivan, author of Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy, will be the program’s closing speaker on Oct. 3.

Hosted by the New England First Amendment Coalition, the institute provides tuition-free training in freedom of information law and investigative reporting techniques for 25 working New England journalists. The faculty features some of the country’s elite reporters, editors and media attorneys. The institute begins online this year on Sept. 26. [...]
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently helped commence the 22nd annual Open Government Summit in Rhode Island, stressing the need for transparency within all levels of government.

The July 31 summit — hosted by the Office of the Attorney General and live-streamed from the Roger Williams University School of Law — featured presentations on the state’s Access to Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act.

“In my work, I’ve always seen public servants as really critical to understanding the government and how it operates,” said Amanda Milkovits, a reporter at The Boston Globe and long-time NEFAC board member, to open the summit. [...]
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently appeared before a New Hampshire state commission to recommend ways to increase transparency within law enforcement agencies.

“The sunshine these efforts are headed for certainly show the good work that police officers do 99 percent of the time as well as weeding out the bad conduct,” said attorney Gregory V. Sullivan on behalf of the coalition, adding that “it’s not just the bad police officers that we can look at but their supervisors as well.”
Sullivan, a NEFAC board member, testified Aug. 20 during a hearing of the Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency and also provided written comments. The commission is tasked with making recommendations to Gov. Christopher T. Sununu about reforming law enforcement agencies in the state. [...]

Additional Coverage

Dan Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, discusses with NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman the national efforts to increase transparency within local and state police departments.
Learn more about how NEFAC is helping to increase law enforcement transparency here.
A conversation with journalist Alison Bethel McKenzie, Director of Corps Excellence for Report for America, on the importance of local journalism, the challenges facing community newsrooms and what citizens can do to help.
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently argued that the First Amendment prohibits suspicionless searches of electronic devices at the country’s borders and protects journalists from government surveillance of their laptops and cellphones.

In an Aug. 7 amicus brief — drafted by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — NEFAC and fellow amici explain that:

“Personal electronic devices have become extensions of the human mind . . . Because of the scale and sensitivity of the information stored on these devices, government searches of them pose a grave threat to the First Amendment freedoms of the press, speech, and association.” [...]
A conversation with Manny Paraschos, a professor emeritus at Emerson College, about Newspaper Row in Boston. Paraschos takes us back in time to describe how this area helped shape our current media landscape.
A conversation with Genie Gannett, president of the First Amendment Museum, about the publishing career of her grandfather, the civil rights advocacy of her grandmother, and the history of the museum her family once called home.
Learn more about how NEFAC can help bring First Amendment and civics education into your classroom here.
“Unlike other states, here Massachusetts, we can pinpoint a location where the outbreak began: Biogen. That’s where it began. To not have all of the information disclosed … it’s inconceivable,” said Justin Silverman, the director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “Without knowing what procedures could be approved upon, we’re doing ourselves a disservice moving into the fall and into the winter flu-season.” Massachusetts is not the only state lacking transparency with Covid-19-related records. The coalition has joined forces with news outlets and other organizations in Maine to push for the release of specific municipal case data. “Some states have responded better than others,” Silverman said. [...]
Legal experts and government transparency advocates say schools, as a whole, have a long track record of abusing privacy laws to keep information secret and force the public to enter costly lawsuits to gain access to records. Justin Silverman, who leads the New England First Amendment Coalition, said several states also had cited HIPAA as a reason for withholding coronavirus case counts at nursing homes, although many later reversed course and released that information. [...]

Regional / National

Trump Administration, First Amendment

Press Freedom

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Police Transparency



Police Transparency



New Hampshire

Police Transparency

Rhode Island

Police Transparency