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The NEFAC Report 
         New England's monthly right-to-know dispatch

      July  2012    
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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." 

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This "shows the vast gap that exists between the promise of the federal Freedom of Information Act and its reality."

Aki Soga
Burlington's Aki Soga

2012 Institute
Application form

Applications due by Aug. 20 
NEFAI session 2011
 2011 NEFAI session under way

Money the driver on states' access compliance
By Tom Kearney 

   An important question was raised by Rhode Island's flirtation this spring with backing away from mandatory awarding of legal fees in public-records disputes:  

Tom Kearney mug

How do you get public officials to take right-to-know     challenges seriously?

   My experience is that money is the driver.

   Too often, requests for public records and objections to closed-door meetings go to the bottom of the pile, rather than getting the high priority that most state laws require.

   The exception: When there's a cost for largely ignoring a right-to-know request.

   Generally, that cost comes in two forms: You know you'll get sued unless you take the request seriously, or you know that, if the case goes to court, your inaction can lead to the awarding of legal fees.  (Read more

ACLU wants details on FBI's "racial mapping"  
By Steven Brown
   PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The FBI's refusal to release what could be considered a guide to racial profiling shows the vast gap that exists between the promise of the federal Freedom of Information Act and its reality.
   It is no secret that, since 9/11, Middle Eastern and Muslim communities have been the subject of increased surveillance, and what many people would consider racial profiling, by law enforcement agencies.
   In 2010, the FBI released a redacted version of a "Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide" that did little to assuage those concerns.  (Read more)
Free Press battles on for open VT public records
By Larry Laughlin
   BURLINGTON, VT. - 260, 230, 209?
   The number of exemptions woven into Vermont's public records law and its cloud of rules and regulations depends on who's counting, but it's clear to open government advocates the tally is way too high.
   Allen Gilbert, director of the state's ACLU affiliate and a close monitor of FOI exemptions, leaves wiggle room in his estimate. "I'd put it at 260-plus," he said. "I'm pretty sure there was at least one added this year."
   The low-ball 209 was the estimate in the 2007 Legislative Council's report on the many ways the state can say no to a citizen's request for information. That report served to ignite the exemptions issue.  (Read more)  
NEFAC offers hands-on training Sept. 30-Oct. 2
   Fellows selected for the 2012 edition of the New England First Amendment Institute in Dedham, Mass., can expect hands-on instruction in FOI law and investigative reporting techniques delivered by an all-star faculty.
   "We took everything we learned from our first year and integrated it into a more hands-on approach to learning for this year's program," said Rosanna Cavanagh, executive director of the sponsoring New England First Amendment Coalition.
    She also pointed to a Sept. 30-Oct. 2 program faculty studded with Pulitzer Prize, Emmy and Peabody Award winners and top media law and First Amendment attorneys.  (Read more) 

   You've probably noticed that the monthly compilation of First Amendment news has been replaced with original content and a more dynamic Twitter feed intended to keep the right-to-know conversation moving.
   We hope you like the changes. There will be more coming as we grow and evolve but none to NEFAC's mission of protecting the Five Freedoms.
   If you have something to add to the conversation, please let me know. Your  stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value. - - Larry Laughlin, NEFAC Report editor. ([email protected]).