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Congress shall make 
no law respecting an establishment of  religion, 
or prohibiting the free 
exercise thereof; or 
abridging the freedom  of speech, or of the press; 
or the right of the people peaceably  to assemble, 
and to petition the 
Government for a 
redress  of grievances.


2017 MAJOR 

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The Sun Journal was awarded the Michael Donoghue First Amendment Award by the New England First Amendment Coalition on Friday. The award was given to the Lewiston newspaper during the annual New England Newspaper and Press Association convention. The freedom of information award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work that protects or advances the public's right to access information possessed by federal and state governments.

The New England First Amendment Coalition presented its top honor to Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for The Washington Post. Sullivan accepted the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award on Friday before a large crowd of journalists, lawyers, educators, students, and media executives at NEFAC's annual awards luncheon at the Marriott Long Wharf.

Why The Role Of The Press Matters  | WBZ-Boston 2.24.17
On Friday I'll be emceeing the annual New England First Amendment Awards on behalf of the New England First Amendment Coalition, a group of citizens who, according to their mission statement, "believe in the power of transparency in a democratic society," and they work with others to preserve and promote access to public meetings and documents and proper compliance with freedom of information laws. It's an honor for me to be involved with this event because I strongly believe that the news media, whatever its failings, provides an essential service to our country, most notably skeptical oversight of what people with power are doing.

Trump Stoops to New Low with Denigration of Media  | Southern Rhode Island Newspapers 2.24.17
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, "President Trump's continued attacks on the media undermine the value of journalism in our country. A reporter's job isn't to pat the president on the back, but to instead pursue the truth, regardless of how it reflects on an administration. As the saying goes, democracy dies in darkness. Trump seems intent on discrediting the very people we rely on to shine light in those dark corners of government." Silverman said, "Once the public has lost faith in the Fourth Estate, there is nothing to separate fact from fiction, truth from propaganda. Yes, we need to demand high standards and integrity from our press corps. But at the same time, we need to discard hollow accusations of 'fake news' and petty grievances with coverage. There's too much at stake to consider every critical news story as the work of dishonest politically driven reporters."

Let the Sun In | Concord Monitor 2.22.17
In recognition of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote open government, the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and New England First Amendment Coalition will present a discussion concerning New Hampshire's Right to Know Law. "The Right to Know in New Hampshire, in Theory and Practice" will be held at the Loeb School, 749 E. Industrial Park Drive in Manchester on March 13 at 7 p.m.

The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and New England First Amendment Coalition will present a discussion next month on New Hampshire's Right-to-Know Law.

The move comes afterGov. Gina Raimondo, several lawmakers - including House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello - and five groups that promote open government asked the attorney general and the state police to release documents relating to the 38 Studios investigation. Access RI, the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the New England First Amendment Coalition requested to review the documents related to the probe.

"Previously, the same senator, Sen. Jeanette White, proposed similar legislation and I think the problem was there was not as much of an organized effort," Evans said. "The key thing is to bring more voices into the conversation." These voices include student, law, education, journalism and civic advocates as well as the formal support of the Vermont Press Association, the Vermont Journalism Education Association and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

There's a method to the madness in putting papers and flyers in peoples driveways. It's a marketing method that's been used for decades but for homeowners it can also be a headache. However, there's also groups like the New England First Amendment Coalition that said it would restrict free speech and block the delivery of free newspapers.

A hearing on a proposed ordinance to address "Mass Outdoor Deliveries" to residents was continued Tuesday by the City Council's Ordinance Committee so First Amendment issues could be addressed. Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan said she and other members of the ordinance panel are working with legal counsel to tune the ordinance in a way that addresses concerns raised by The Providence Journal and by freedom of speech advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Journal Reporter, Former Columnist Join NEFAC Board | Providence Journal 12.7.16 A Providence Journal reporter and a former Journal columnist will join The New England First Amendment Coalition board, which promotes greater understanding of the right to free speech and freedom of the press nationally.

Washington Post Media Columnist Wins New England Prize | Associated Press 11.1.16 The New England First Amendment Coalition says Margaret Sullivan will be presented with its annual Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award on Feb. 24, 2017. NEFAC says Sullivan was recognized for her past work as public editor at The New York Times and her efforts at the Post to champion access to information, media intimidation and news organizations' roles as truth tellers.

We welcome contributions 
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 NEFAC REPORT | February 2017  
Regional/National    CT     MA     ME     NH     RI     VT 
2017 New England First Amendment Awards

Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post, accepted the New England First Amendment Coalition's Stephen Hamblett Award last week, calling for Americans to insist on the truth, seek it relentlessly and stand up for those who provide it. 

Sullivan spoke during the seventh annual New England First Amendment Awards on Feb. 24 in Boston.  NEFAC hosts the awards luncheon to honor those who have advocated for the First Amendment and the public's right to know. During the luncheon, NEFAC also honored the Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine, and open government advocate Donna Green. 

After accepting the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award - which is given to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career - Sullivan discussed what she called the "all-out animosity toward the press from Donald Trump."  [...]

Additional Coverage

Jan. 24 Brief

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined an amicus curiae brief arguing in support of the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP law, calling such statutes "increasingly important" and a "vital barrier between a healthy press and its possible financial ruin." SLAPPs, or strategic lawsuits against public participation, are frivolous civil lawsuits intended to silence speech and impose significant financial burdens on speakers. Anti-SLAPP laws protect those speakers by requiring plaintiffs to show a legal or factual basis for their suit, or in other words, show that the lawsuit isn't frivolous.  [...]


"We're very excited to have Lia join NEFAC and help our efforts defending the First Amendment in Vermont," said  Justin Silverman , the coalition's executive director. "She's going to be a tremendous resource not only for our organization but for all New Englanders." At the ACLU of Vermont, Ernst litigates civil liberties, civil rights and open government cases; advocates before state and municipal governmental bodies on ACLU legislative priorities; and educates community groups on protecting and exercising their rights.  [...]

Jan. 25 Letter

House Bill 97 prohibits, among other things, the use of drones for commercial surveillance without the permission of those surveilled or the owners of the buildings being monitored. The National Press Photographers Association wrote to Rep. Carol McGuire on Jan. 25 on behalf of several media organizations, including NEFAC. The groups expressed doubt that the bill's news gathering exception would provide adequate protection of First Amendment rights.  [...]

In recognition of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote open government, the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and the New England First Amendment Coalition will present a discussion concerning the key to open government in New Hampshire - the state's Right to Know Law. The event, titled "The Right to Know in New Hampshire, in Theory and Practice" will be at 7 p.m. on March 13 at the Loeb School 749 E. Industrial Park Drive, Manchester, N.H.  [...]

By Lia Ernst | ACLU of Vermont

The State of Vermont recently released a cache of public records related to the state's participation in the EB-5 visa program after VTDigger, represented by the ACLU of Vermont and Timothy Cornell of Cornell Dolan, P.C., sued for their release. VTDigger's lawsuit alleged the state improperly withheld the records in violation of Vermont's public records law. After the lawsuit was filed, the state finally released the EB-5 records, and on February 7 lawyers for VTDigger and the state voluntarily dismissed the case.  [...]

Additional Coverage
By Edward Fitzpatrick | Roger Williams University

Dipping into the deep, dark well of dictatorial diction, President Trump recently called the news media "the enemy of the American People." Even by the standards of a president who just devoted much of a 77-minute press conference to bashing the media, who once openly mocked a disabled reporter and who seems intent on denigrating and delegitimizing any journalist who dares to challenge him, Trump sunk to a new low. While he clearly sees political gain in denouncing the press and while his critique ignores the vast segments of the media that are content to be lapdogs rather than watchdogs, Trump debases his high office by using the bully pulpit to bully a free press.  [...]

By David Saad | Right to Know New Hampshire

Our government belongs to us.  Part I Article 8 of the New Hampshire Constitution articulates the citizen's right to know what its government is doing. This right is further codified in the state's  Right to Know LawYes, citizens have the right to know what their government is doing on their behalf. But when that right is violated, the citizen's ability to enforce that right is severely limited because of a number of enforcement barriers that exist.   [...]

By Jared A. Goldstein | Roger Williams University School of Law

President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 27 that violates the bedrock principles upon which Roger Williams founded Rhode Island. I've always been proud to work at a university named for Roger Williams, whose commitment to religious liberty for all peoples formed the basis for our nation's commitment to separation of church and state and its dedication to the principle that the government should never favor or disfavor any religion. The president's order, however, prohibits the issuance of visas to anyone from one of seven specified predominately Muslim countries.   [...]

Other FOI and First Amendment News
            Executive Office, Transparency
            U.S. Supreme Court 

            Public Records, Filing Fees
New Hampshire

            Ballot Selfies, Open Government
            Right to Know Law Legislation
            Testimony of Right to Know NH
Rhode Island

            Public Records, Academic Research
            First Amendment, Panhandling
            38 Studios Investigation

            Student Journalism, New Voices Campaign