Release: Mills Sought to Silence Journalists in 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 21, 2022
Contact: Jacob Posik
Director of Communications
Mills Administration Sought to Silence Select Journalists In 2021
Letter reveals the Mills administration asked the Maine Press Association to credential journalists following its attempts to bar reporters from attending state press briefings
PORTLAND, Maine – This week, Maine Policy Institute learned that Governor Janet Mills’ administration sought to silence journalists from The Maine Wire, Maine Policy’s online news website, and the Maine Beacon, an online news website run by the Maine People’s Alliance, last year.
In October 2021, the administration was caught trying to bar certain journalists from attending press briefings held by the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC). After Maine Policy sounded the alarm on this obvious First Amendment violation, the Maine CDC’s new policy prohibiting the attendance of reporters from The Maine Wire and Beacon was quickly reversed.
However, one week following that episode, Scott Ogden, Governor Mills’ communications director, wrote a letter to the Maine Press Association asking if it would establish a system for vetting and credentialing journalists to attend state-held press briefings, similar to the federal government’s Standing Committee of Correspondents. The press association’s letter in response to Ogden can be read here.
The Maine Wire submitted a Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request on October 7, 2021 seeking communications within the Governor’s Office and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services that would shed light on how the Mills administration made the decision to expel certain journalists from press briefings. Thirteen months later, those requests remain unfulfilled with no time or cost estimate provided to produce the information.
Had either agency responded to the FOAA request, The Maine Wire would already have in hand a copy of Ogden’s initial letter to the Maine Press Association.
“This episode reflects a disturbing attack on freedom of the press and our First Amendment,” said Maine Policy Institute CEO Matt Gagnon. “One week after getting caught trying to ban select journalists from state press briefings, the Mills administration tried to influence a private organization to do it for them. This is the kind of authoritarianism you might expect from chief executives in other areas of the world, but certainly not in the United States.”
“The governor — a former Maine attorney general — brazenly tried to violate the First Amendment by cherry picking which journalists were allowed to cover her administration. This contempt for the First Amendment and our Constitution, from someone who should know better, cannot go unnoticed.”
Maine Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to expand individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Learn more about our work at www.mainepolicy.org.