NEFAC Calls on R.I. Governor to Resume Full Press Briefings and Direct Questioning

Governor Raimondo’s Avoidance of Journalists Deprives Public and ‘Shakes Confidence’

Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition is calling on Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to resume full press briefings and allow direct questioning from journalists.

The governor has not made herself available for questioning from journalists since being nominated last month for Commerce Secretary in President-Elect Joseph Biden’s Administration.

“While your nomination to President-Elect Biden’s Cabinet is a great honor that carries with it certain responsibilities, these must not be prioritized over your duties as governor,” according to a Jan. 19 letter from NEFAC to Governor Raimondo.

“Making yourself available for questioning by journalists — who serve as a proxy to the public — is one of those duties,” the coalition wrote.

The New England Newspaper & Press Association also endorsed NEFAC’s letter. The Rhode Island Press Association sent a separate letter expressing similar concerns about the governor’s inaccessibility.

“With Rhode Island reeling from cases of COVID-19 and a need for timely and accurate health information, there is no substitute for direct access to the governor,” wrote Justin Silverman and Linda Conway, executive directors for NEFAC and NENPA, respectively.

Since last March, Governor Raimondo has been the key decision maker on pandemic-related questions such as how to open schools, whether to restrict businesses, or if certain health mandates or economic incentives should be put in place, they explained.

Rhode Islanders now face questions about vaccine distribution and demographic priorities for inoculation, as well as whether federal assistance may be needed in the months ahead.

“There are questions — related to the pandemic and otherwise — that must be answered,” Silverman and Conway wrote. “As the state’s top-ranking elected official, you are the best person to answer them. Limiting your availability and avoiding the press not only deprives the public of this much-needed information, but the lack of transparency shakes the confidence we have in our state government.”

NEFAC is the leading advocate for First Amendment freedoms and open government in New England. It fights to protect press rights and promote transparency throughout the six state region.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, NEFAC expressed concern over Governor Raimondo’s decision to suspend the state’s open meeting law, called on the her to provide more accessibility to journalists during daily briefings, asked her to repeal an “extremely damaging” executive order delaying access to public records, and publicly discussed the secrecy within Rhode Island state government.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.