Photo (cc) 2015 by jqpubliq

A “disgruntled homophobic Middle School janitor.” The Massachusetts legislature, which has resolutely refused to strengthen our notoriously weak public records law. A Rhode Island city councilor who threw a critic out of a public meeting. A Malden charter school that refused to turn over public records on the patently absurd grounds that it’s not a public school.

These are just a few of the people and institutions that I’ve singled out over the past year as recipients of the New England Muzzle Awards, my annual Fourth of July round-up of transgressions against freedom of expression.

From 1998 to 2012, I wrote these up for the late, much lamented Boston Phoenix. Then, from 2013 to 2022, the Muzzles were hosted by GBH News. I decided to call it a wrap with the 25th-anniversary edition. But then I began to write up Muzzles as they came to my attention rather than saving them all for Independence Day. What follows are Muzzle Awards I’ve handed out since last June.

Kudos, as always, to my friends Harvey Silverglate, who conceived of this annual feature all these years ago, and Peter Kadzis, who edited all 25 editions. They were inspired by the Jefferson Muzzles, which no longer are awarded. Here in New England, though, their spirit lives on.

At a time when democracy itself is under threat, defending the First Amendment is more important than it’s ever been. The envelopes, please.

How our weak public records law is enabling a cover-up of school sports harassment (June 20, 2023)

The Mystic Valley Charter School, winner of a 2017 Muzzle, is back to its old tricks (Aug. 1, 2023)

A Muzzle Award goes to an R.I. city councilor who threw a critic out of the chambers (Aug. 7, 2023)

A NH publisher faces sentencing, while a small town in Mass. says no to drag (Dec. 13, 2023)

A Muzzle for the officers who removed a teenage journalist from a GOP event (Oct. 16, 2023)

In Marblehead and Waltham, teachers and officials seek to stifle public scrutiny (Nov. 8, 2023)

A Muzzle Award for the anonymous troll who reported ‘Gender Queer’ to the police (Dec. 21, 2023)

NH newspaper publisher fined $620 for running unlabeled political ads (Dec. 22, 2023)

AG Campbell boosts free speech for electeds, while an anti-trans shirt goes to court (Feb. 14, 2024)

A Muzzle to a CT police department that kept a murder probe under wraps (March 17, 2024)

Muzzle follow-up: North Brookfield will allow drag show at Pride event (March 20, 2024)

How our shameful public records law is affecting the Karen Read murder trial (April 29, 2024)

Great Barrington teacher sues town, school district and police over classroom search (May 17, 2024)

Plymouth official threatens reporter for recording a public, live-streamed meeting (June 20, 2024)

A Vermont state trooper, a middle finger — and, voilà, a New England Muzzle Award (July 1, 2024)

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