New awards honor media, citizens who help enforce Freedom on Information laws

A pair of new annual awards will recognize both private citizens and professional journalists for their work advancing knowledge of what government is doing – or failing to do.

Applications are now being accepted for the Citizen Right to Know Award and the FOI Award, which for the first time will honor those who advanced the public’s right to know in 2012 during a Feb. 8 ceremony. The awards will be presented at the New England First Amendment Coalition’s annual luncheon, which also will see Philip Balboni, creator of the 24-hour TV news network NECN, receive the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award.

Journalists and citizens from all six New England states are eligible and encouraged to apply.

"NEFAC's board wanted to recognize the fact that every breakthrough in the fight against government obfuscation is not made by professional journalists," NEFAC Executive Director Rosanna Cavanagh said. "Often times it's the outraged or frustrated citizen who just won't let go who makes the difference."

Candidates for the Citizen Award should have shown tenacity or bravery in the face of difficulty in obtaining information the public has a right to know. Nominations are due Jan. 7 and applications can be found online and emailed to rosecavanagh.nefac@gmail.com or faxed to (401) 751-7542.

Cavanagh said the FOI Award will be a recognition of news media at its best, standing watch against elected and appointed officials trying to cloak activities from the people they serve. Work in broadcast, online or print media is eligible.

The award will go to a journalist, pair of journalists or media institution for work that protects or advances the public's right to know under federal or state law. Preference will be given to applicants who overcome significant official resistance.

Applicants should submit their story or series along with a cover letter explaining the process of getting the story, why it was a significant accomplishment and how it affected the public. Entries, which also are due by Jan. 7, may be submitted electronically, though originals will be checked prior to notification of the winner. The entry forms can be found here.

The luncheon will be held in conjunction with the New England Newspaper & Press Association's 2013 convention and trade show at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.

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