Groups call for Raimondo to hold press briefings

Updated at 3:49 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2021.

THE NEW ENGLAND First Amendment Coalition is calling on Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to hold press briefings and allow direct questioning from journalists. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – The New England First Amendment Coalition is requesting that Gov. Gina M. Raimondo resume press briefings and allow direct questioning from journalists.

The coalition, which sent the request in a letter to Raimondo Wednesday, took issue with the governor not making herself available for questioning from journalists since being nominated earlier this month for United States secretary of commerce.

NEFAC stated the following in its letter: “While your nomination to President-Elect Biden’s Cabinet is a great honor that carries with it certain responsibilities, these must not be prioritized over your duties as governor.”

“Making yourself available for questioning by journalists — who serve as a proxy to the public — is one of those duties,” the coalition wrote.

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The New England Newspaper & Press Association endorsed NEFAC’s letter. And the Rhode Island Press Association sent a separate letter expressing concerns about the governor’s inaccessibility.

“With Rhode Island reeling from cases of COVID-19 and a need for timely and accurate health information, there is no substitute for direct access to the governor,” wrote Justin Silverman and Linda Conway, executive directors for NEFAC and NENPA, respectively.

In response, Audrey Lucas, spokeswoman for the governor, issued the following statement: “During this time of transition, [R.I. Department of Health Director] Dr. [Nicole] Alexander-Scott and her team at the Department of Health will continue to hold press briefings multiple times each week on our state’s COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout. Lieutenant Governor McKee will continue providing updates on the transition. Governor Raimondo will address Rhode Islanders in her State of the State address on February 3. She is focused on ensuring a smooth transition and continuing to manage the public health response.”

NEFAC noted that Rhode Islanders are facing questions about the economy, vaccine distribution and demographic priorities for inoculation, as well as whether federal assistance may be needed in the months ahead.

NEFAC is an advocate for First Amendment freedoms and open government in New England. It fights to protect press rights and promote transparency throughout the six-state region.

Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. You may reach him at Shuman@PBN.com.

Correction: Raimondo was nominated for United States secretary of commerce on Jan. 7.

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