NEFAC Demands Transparency, Public Oversight During COVID-19 Pandemic

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined a group of open government advocates to demand transparency and opportunities for public oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The groups released a statement calling on governments throughout the country to protect the public’s right to know when taking measures to contain the novel coronavirus.

“Government bodies should not opportunistically take advantage of the public’s inability to attend large gatherings to make critical decisions affecting the public’s interest if those decisions can reasonably be postponed,” according to NEFAC and more than 100 other open government advocates in a March 20 statement.

“Just as citizens are being asked to defer nonessential travel and errands, so should government agencies defer noncritical policy-making decisions until full and meaningful public involvement can be guaranteed,” they wrote.

The groups issued the statement at a time when many government agencies are conducting meetings remotely and without public oversight. If postponing policy-making decisions is not realistic, the groups wrote, every available measure should be take to do the following:

Notify the public of meetings of government bodies and how to participate in those meetings remotely.
Use widely available technologies to maximize real-time public engagement.
Preserve a viewable record of proceedings that is promptly made accessible online.

“At all times, but most especially during times of national crisis, trust and credibility are the government’s most precious assets” according to the statement. “As people are asked to make increasing sacrifices in their daily lives for the greater good of public health, the legitimacy of government decision-making requires a renewed commitment to transparency.”

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, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.