Target: Paul LePage, Governor of Maine
Goal: Lift the blacklist for journalists seeking access to Maine’s government, including administration officials and public records
After publishing a series of articles criticizing Maine Governor Paul LePage’s top environmental regulator, three publications were blacklisted by LePage’s administration. The administration will no longer comment or respond to requests from these publications, including requests for public records. Tell LePage to restore access to the government and let these journalists do their jobs.
Recently, three daily newspapers from Maine published in-depth articles about LePage’s appointee to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). LePage appointed Patricia Aho to the commissioner position of the DEP in 2011. Aho is a former corporate lobbyist, and The Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel all found that she has blocked several environmental laws and regulations from taking effect, and has also removed thousands of pages from the DEP website. The papers allege that Aho’s former clients in the lobbying industry have benefited from her actions as commissioner.
After the articles were published, the LePage administration told the Press Herald that it would no longer issue comments to MaineToday Media, the parent company to the three papers, stating that it “had made it clear that it opposed this administration.” Despite the limit to access, the papers have pledged to continue to investigate the administration. “Our mission is to shine the light on how government impacts the lives of Mainers,” Cliff Schechtman, executive editor of the Press Herald/Telegram, said. “No threats of gag orders from the LePage administration will stop us from doing probing journalism on behalf of citizens.”
These publications did nothing more than expose the LePage administration’s consistent opposition to environmental protection legislation, using facts that were (or should have been) in the public domain. Urge LePage to allow these journalists access to public records and information by signing the petition below.
Dear Governor Paul LePage,
I urge you to remove your blacklist of journalists from the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal, and the Morning Sentinel. By exploring in-depth Patricia Aho’s blockage of environmental laws that happened to benefit her former lobbying clients, these publications were doing their jobs.
A free press is one of the rights afforded by the First Amendment. When a news organization publishes criticism of the government, it is an indication that a change is needed, not that the organization should be banned from further access to public information. A reactionary blacklist on government information only further deteriorates the administration’s reputation by making it seem like it has something to hide.
Restore the public’s access to the facts. Lift the blacklist on these three newspapers immediately.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: MaineDOE via Flickr