Dangerous Times for the First Amendment


Hello. I’m Janet Wu. I’m a reporter with WCVB and a New England First Amendment Coalition board member.

I’ve been a reporter here in Boston for nearly 44 years and I think we are wandering into very dangerous territory when it comes to the First Amendment.

The recent elections — not just the presidential election but also Congressional and local elections — have to some people legitimized attacks on the media. But in many cases, it is the most powerful elected people who are trampling on the First Amendment.

Reporters are being blocked from documents. They are being blocked from asking questions. Reporters are now being arrested for trying to ask public officials questions about legitimate news. I never thought I would see that in my lifetime.

Despite recent updates to the public records law in Massachusetts, many municipalities and other government agencies are still delaying the release of records to reporters, hoping they will drop the story and move on.

Attempts to dilute or weaken the state’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws are already having a negative effect on news organizations. Organizations without strong financial backing are walking away from stories they know are sound and are on solid ground. They just don’t want to face the possibility of a lawsuit. They don’t want to spend the tens of thousands of dollars needed to go into court.

In these contentious times, news organizations, especially those in small markets, need NEFAC to offer advice and back them up. Without NEFAC’s support, a lot of vital information the public has a right to know would never be broadcast or published.

NEFAC is governed mainly by journalists and lawyers, but it serves all citizens who truly value the First Amendment. Without the First Amendment, so much of what the voters need to know and should know, would never be put into the public forum.

These are dangerous times for the First Amendment. Even a small contribution can make a huge difference to NEFAC and its mission.

Please make a donation.