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FIRST AMENDMENT
OF U.S. CONSTITUTION 

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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Massachusetts Media Stands Up for Glenn Beck | Boston Magazine 8.12.16 Boston has learned that media lawyer Jonathan Albano (who famously worked with the Boston Globe as its Spotlight team investigated clergy sex abuse in the city and has represented many other outlets) recently penned an amicus, or "friend of the court," brief arguing for the judge not to make Beck spill the beans on his informants. The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition also signed off on the brief, which among other things urges the court to consider the implications to a free press.

Deadly Public Health Prescription | Caledonian Record 8.12.16 We agree with Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Center, "While these changes are intended to protect the privacy of individuals, they are neither necessary nor helpful to the public's response to infectious disease outbreaks. Worse, they may jeopardize the safety of those who would otherwise learn of potential risks to their health."

It sent a letter Wednesday to Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight, to reconvene in order to subpoena and release the documents. Days earlier, ACCESS/RI, the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and the New England First Amendment Coalition sent a letter to Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and state police Col. Steven G. O'Donnell urging the same.

Others calling for Kilmartin to reconsider include House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello as well as ACCESS/RI, the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

The statement from Raimondo's office came hours after five organizations - ACCESS/RI, the ACLU of RI, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the New England First Amendment Coalition - released a public letter to Kilmartin and O'Donnell calling their rationale for keeping the material under wraps "less than compelling."

Open Government Groups Urge Release of 38 Studios Details | Associated Press 8.2.16 The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the New England First Amendment Coalition and other groups on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Rhode Island State Police Col. Steven O'Donnell, urging them to disclose the documents.

The request was made by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; Common Cause of Rhode Island;  Access/RI; the state chapter of the League of Women Voters; and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

ACCESS/RI; the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union; Common Cause Rhode Island; the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island; and the New England First Amendment Coalition on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and Rhode Island State Police Col. Steven G. O'Donnell urging that given the "extraordinarily strong public interest" in the case that documents should be disclosed.

Groups Call on Kilmartin to Release 38 Studios Records | GoLocalProv 8.2.16 The five groups - ACCESS/RI, the ACLU of RI, Common Cause RI, the League of Women Voters of RI, and the New England First Amendment Coalition - stated: "[T]he disaster known as 38 Studios happened because of a deeply ingrained culture of secrecy in this state. The official state investigation into that disaster should not perpetuate that culture."

Post Reporter Barred from Trump-Pence Rally | The Providence Journal 7.30.16
New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said: "Trump's crusade against journalists needs to end. Whether this reporter attended the event as a member of the media or as a private citizen, access should have been provided. Cherry-picking an audience is a campaign interest, not a public interest."

Groups Support Refusal To Turn Over Bergdahl Tapes | Deadline 7.30.16 News organizations from across the country have signed an Amicus Brief in support of Mark Boal's refusal to hand over to military prosecutors his taped interviews with accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. . . . The full list of signators includes . . . New England First Amendment Coalition.

Keeping Information Secret Can Make Disease Outbreaks Worse | Bangor Daily News 7.26.16 Such restrictions
run counter to the American Public Health Association's recommendations for sharing information during disease outbreaks, the New England First Amendment Coalition noted in comments opposing the rules changes, which it called "neither necessary nor helpful."

Freedom of Information Act Turns 50 Thanks to 'LBJ' | Mass Live 7.24.16 Also in June,
the state of Maine, after protests filed by the New England First Amendment Coalition and other open-government groups, suspended a new policy that had prohibited public access to closed criminal cases. The judicial branch policy had required that all records of dismissed criminal cases, except those involving a plea deal, become automatically confidential 30 days after dismissal, the coalition said. "The policy seriously undermined the First Amendment and the public's right to know," the coalition said.

We welcome contributions 
to the NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, academics 
or other advocates of 
government transparency. If 
you have something to add 
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 NEFAC REPORT | August 2016
New England First Amendment Institute
New England First Amendment Institute Faculty, Panels and Workshops Announced
NEFAI 2016 Journalism Fellowship Applications Due Today

  Application Materials
The New England First Amendment Coalition is selecting 25 reporters, editors and news producers to attend at no cost its three-day investigative journalism institute. The sixth annual New England First Amendment Institute is from Oct. 16-18 in Dedham, Mass., and is open to any journalist working in the region. Past fellows include a cross-section of those new to the industry and veterans with decades of experience.

Those chosen to attend the institute will learn from some of the country's elite reporters, editors and media attorneys. Speakers at the institute include investigative journalism heavyweights and freedom of information experts. Bill Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times and current editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, will provide the keynote address. 


NEFAC News
NEFAC, Open Government Groups 
Call for Release of 38 Studios Documents

Letter to AG, State Police
Highlighting the "extraordinarily strong public interest" in the 38 Studios scandal and calling "less than compelling" the arguments offered for keeping the investigatory records secret, five open government groups recently called on Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and State Police Superintendent Steven O'Donnell to release those documents to the public.

In a detailed letter recently sent to the two officials, the five groups - ACCESS/RI, the ACLU of RI, Common Cause RI, the League of Women Voters of RI, and the New England First Amendment Coalition - stated:

"[T]he disaster known as 38 Studios happened because of a deeply ingrained culture of secrecy in this state. The official state investigation into that disaster should not perpetuate that culture."


NEFAC Commends New Hampshire Supreme Court Ruling Easing Way for Release of Police, Prosecution Records

NH Supreme Court Ruling
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently commended a New Hampshire Supreme Court decision that prevents certain law enforcement records from being automatically withheld under the state's annulment statute.

The case - Grafton County Attorney's Office v. Canner - involved a documentary filmmaker and her efforts to obtain police and prosecution records used in a highly publicized rape trial of a Dartmouth College student. The student was later acquitted and had his criminal record annulled.


NEFAC, Media Groups Defend Journalist's Right to Protect Unpublished Interviews, Receive Due Process in Civilian Court

Amici Curiae Brief
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined an amici curiae brief in a federal court proceeding in California that involves important issues regarding reporters' privilege and the authority of military prosecutors to issue subpoenas to civilian news media members without going through the judicial system.

"While this case is being heard outside New England, it addresses important questions about journalism and how it is defined," said Justin Silverman, NEFAC's executive director. "But it's also about making sure journalists continue to have the protection of civilian courts when First Amendment freedoms are at stake."


NEFAC Praises Court Decision Requiring Public Access to Vermont PSB Hearing

Federal Court Ruling

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently praised a federal court decision requiring public access to a hearing on a controversial natural gas pipeline expansion project in Vermont, calling the ruling a strong and much-needed endorsement of the public's right to know. 

The case involves a Vermont Public Service Board hearing on Aug. 4 to discuss easement rights as part of the contentious pipeline extension proposal by Vermont Gas Systems. There have been dozens of arrests and some trespass incidents at the homes of the utility's president, the Public Service Commissioner and at the Vermont Gas headquarters. Scores of protesters disrupted earlier hearings by singing, chanting, clapping and whistling, forcing officials to adjourn without completing their work.


Other FOI and First Amendment News
       Regional / National

            ReportPrivReporter's Privilege, Military Subpoenas
 ________________________________________________

       Connecticut

            State Watchdog Funding

       Maine

       Massachusetts

            Beck Libel Case, Reporter's Privilege
________________________________________________ 

       New Hampshire

            AnulAnnulled Cases, Public Records
________________________________________________

       Rhode Island

            ThirtyEight38 Studios, APRA

       Vermont

            PSBPSB Pipeline Hearing, Open Meeting Law
            EB-5 Public Records
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