NEFAC, Press Advocates File Amicus Brief in Defamation Case Against NHPR

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined several New Hampshire organizations to argue against efforts that could chill reporting on matters of public concern.

A superior court is currently hearing a defamation case against New Hampshire Public Radio. The former owner of the state’s largest network of substance misuse treatment providers brought the case after NHPR reported allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

NEFAC, the ACLU of New Hampshire, Union Leader Corp. and the Caledonian Record argued in a Dec. 2 amicus brief that:

“The Supreme Court has been sensitive to allow breathing space for robust discussions on matters of public concern by dismissing defamation cases at the motion to dismiss stage that, if allowed to proceed to discovery, could stifle important debate on matters of public concern . . . If this case is allowed to proceed with such conclusory allegations of malice, not only will journalists’ vital reporting be chilled, but sources who may have been the victims of sexual or other misconduct by people in power also will be less likely to go on the record and describe their experiences out of a fear of litigation.”

If the case proceeds, according to the brief, the result will be an environment in New Hampshire where those who may have been victims of or who witnessed abuse will decide to never publicly tell their story out of a fear of being raked over the coals in costly litigation.

“What is the consequence of this chill?,” amici wrote. “A less informed public and a lack of accountability for those with power.”

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly drafts and joins amicus briefs in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

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.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, Connecticut Public and GBH-Boston.