Thursday, March 04, 2021

N.C. weekly editor Tom Boney, jailed after seeking access to court hearing, receives NNA's First Amendment Award

Tom Boney Jr.
Tom Boney Jr., publisher of The Alamance News, a weekly in North Carolina, was removed from a court room in the county seat of Graham and jailed after protesting that a hearing in a controversial case should be open to the press and public. For his determination to stand up for open government and freedom of the press, the National Newspaper Association has given Boney, a long-time crusader and accountability journalist, its First Amendment Award.

Boney's "arrest followed charges against News reporter Tomas Murawski, who was arrested while covering the rally, which was aimed at highlighting voting inequities in the area," NNA reports. Boney also took on the local district court for holding hearings in high–profile cases without journalists in attendance. He took an appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals to force public hearings. The appeal was dismissed in January after the district court agreed to make accommodations for journalists to cover proceedings. But charges against Murawski are still pending."

NNA Chair Brett Wesner applauded Boney’s efforts in a statement: "The impulse of governments to conduct themselves behind closed doors and limit journalists from access to events is ever present, particularly when the news is hot. It takes grit and determination to force transparency and accountability when you live in the community where these events occur. But it is what we do. The case for the value of the local newspaper is never clearer than when a courageous champion of the First Amendment like Tom Boney puts his newspaper on the line for his readers."

The award will be presented March 18 during NNA's virtual Community Newspaper Summit, timed to coincide with Sunshine Week.

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