Open Meetings

"Newsgathering in Massachusetts" Guide Now Available Online!

The Digital Media Law Project is pleased to announce the online release of its new legal resource, Newsgathering in Massachusetts, co-produced with the Harvard Law School

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Strong FOI Laws Expose More Than Just A Governor’s Diet

Perhaps it’s the nightly lobster tails and whoopie pies. Or maybe it’s the Pumpkinhead Ale. Whatever it is that graces his dinner table, Maine Gov.

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Massachusetts High Court Applies Fair Report Privilege to Anonymous Account of Closed Meeting

As both a journalist and a techie, I'm pretty keen on the free flow of information, and thus pretty keen in turn on the importance of protecting journalists, both professional and citizen, who are in the business of facilitating that flow. So it was reassuring to see that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on the side of the angels this week in the case of Howell v. Enterprise, granting protection from libel claims to reporters who fairly and accurately report official government proceedings.

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National Freedom of Information Coalition to Create FOI Litigation Fund With Help From Knight Foundation

Citizen Journalist's Guide to Open Government

J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism at American University's School of Communication, just announced the launch of "The Citizen Journalist’s Guide to Open Government," an extensive multimedia module to help citizen media creators understan

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Boston City Council: What Are They Hiding?

Journalism professor Dan Kennedy has a great post today at Media Nation about the Boston City Council's review of an 80-page report that it commissioned urging the state legislature to exempt it from the Massachusetts open meetings laws.

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New York Legislature Passes Open Records and Open Meetings Reforms

The New York Legislature recently passed several open records and open meetings reforms, adding New York to the long list of states that have taken steps to revamp their open government laws this year.

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NY Law Would Allow Citizens to Record and Broadcast Government Meetings

A bill pending in the New York Legislature would allow the public to photograph, videotape, and audio record public meetings in New York, providing better access to government deliberations and information. It would impose two minor conditions: the photographing or recording activity must not be disruptive, and the public body holding the meeting can regulate where equipment and personnel are located in the room.

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Pending Law in NY Would Allow Citizens to Record and "Broadcast" Government Meetings

A bill pending in the New York state legislature would allow the public to photograph or record public proceedings providing better access to government deliberations and information.  

There are two conditions to this access: people can record and broadcast public meetings as long as their activities are not disruptive and the government board is allowed to regulate where equipment and personnel are located in the room.

The act is an amendment to section 103 of the New York Open Meetings Law (OML) which provides the public with a right of access to the meetings of a large number of government bodies at the state and local level.

Prior to the introduction of this bill, judicial decisions in New York indicated that the public may use recording devices in public meetings. One court concluded that giving recording privileges to the public may provide a better way to document what transpired at a meeting. In the words of the Appellate Division of New York’s Supreme Court in Mitchell v. Board of Education of Garden City Union Free School District,

[a] contemporaneous recording of a public meeting is undoubtedly a more reliable, accurate and efficient means of memorializing what is said at the proceeding. Once the information and comments are conveyed to the public, it should be of no consequence that they may subsequently be repeated, by means of replay, to those who were unable to attend.

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Bill Will Revamp Tennessee Open Records Law

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is expected to sign into law a recently passed bill that would provide a much-needed overhaul of the state's open records practices.

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Access to State and Local Government Meetings

All fifty states and the District of Columbia have enacted open meetings laws. These laws generally require state and local agencies, commissions, boards, and councils to provide advance notice to the public of their meetings, to permit any member of the public to attend them (although not necessarily to participate), and to provide minutes, transcripts or recordings of meetings upon request at little or no cost.

Access to Government Meetings

Federal, state, and local governments often act through agencies, boards, committees, and other government "bodies." The most familiar examples of these kinds of government bodies are found at the local level -- they include school boards, city councils, boards of county commissioners, zoning and planning commissions, police review boards, and boards of library trustees. At the state level, examples include state environmental commissions, labor boards, housing boards, and tax commissions, to name a few.

Access to Government Information

This section of the legal guide outlines the wide-array of information available to you from government sources. These sources range from your local city council all the way up to the largest agencies in the federal government. In fact, you might be quite surprised at how much information is available to you. And the best part is that you generally don't need to hire a lawyer or file any complicated forms -- you can access most of this information simply by showing up or filing a relatively simple request.

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