The Muzzle Awards: Spotlighting 10 Who Diminish Free Speech

Dan Kennedy is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a panelist on WGBH’s “Beat the Press.” He has been compiling the Muzzle Awards since their debut in 1998. He can be reached here.

Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer, is co-founder and current Board Chairman of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.


For anyone who’s been paying attention, President Barack Obama’s disappointing record on free speech, civil liberties, and governmental transparency is old news.

This year, though, is special. Obama’s lack of respect for the role of a free press in a democratic society reached new depths when it was revealed that his Justice Department had snooped on the Associated Press and Fox News’ James Rosen in trying to ferret out leakers.

Then came the überleaker — Edward Snowden, who provided The Guardian and The Washington Post with documents showing that the National Security Agency was monitoring our phone traffic, our emails, and other communications on a scale more massive than previously imagined.

“I welcome this debate and I think it’s healthy for our democracy,” Obama said after the NSA revelations. Yet his administration has already begun the process of bringing criminal charges against Snowden that could put him behind bars for decades.

It is against that chilling backdrop that Harvey Silverglate and I present the 16th Annual Muzzle Awards — a Fourth of July round-up of outrages against free speech and personal liberties in New England during the past year.

Launched in 1998, the Muzzles’ home was the late, great Boston Phoenix, which ceased publication in March. This year we are pleased to bring the Muzzles to WGBH.

The envelopes, please.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz

Prosecuting — and persecuting — a fragile Internet visionary

Former NH House Speaker William O’Brien

Playing unfavorites with the press

Judge Peter Lauriat

Twitter emerges as a vital news tool — but not in this courtroom

Rhode Island Prison Chief A.T. Wall

Prisoners have free-speech rights, too

Plainridge Racecourse

A citizen journalist finds himself in the crosshairs of a bogus lawsuit

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis

Strong in a crisis, but he also spied on antiwar and Occupy left

Maine Dept. of Transportation

Keeping records about a controversial highway from the public view

Rhode Island Public Schools

ACLU filtering study reveals widespread Internet censorship

Maine Gov. Paul LePage

Pro-gun governor tramples on the public’s right to know

Max Kennedy

Still stonewalling after all these years on RFK’s official papers

Campus Muzzle Awards

If freedom of speech, the right to associate with whomever one might wish, and other constitutionally protected liberties had a home, you would think that it would be on the nation's college campuses.

But that assumption is dead wrong.

As this list drawn from campuses around New England demonstrates, liberty is under constant assault.

Yale University

Tufts University

Trinity University

Harvard University

University of Rhode Island

University of Southern Maine