FOG commends and congratulates Ed Williams of Searchlight New Mexico on this well-deserved recognition!
FOG was involved last year in aiding Searchlight New Mexico’s investigation exposing the state’s Children’s Youth and Families Department’s use of Signal, a secure communication app, and has set chats to automatically delete. Once deleted, virtually no trace of a Signal conversation remains, even on the company’s server.
According to an article by reporter Ed Williams, “Records of employee communications have been central to journalists’ coverage of state agencies, including Searchlight New Mexico’s 2018 investigation of abuse within the foster care system.”
“You can’t just encrypt and automatically delete communications between state employees,” said Melanie Majors, then-executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. “That’s no different than putting official documents in the shredder at the end of every day.
“Improper destruction of public records is a fourth-degree felony,” she added.
Ed Williams at Searchlight New Mexico is the winner of the First Amendment Award. This award recognizes the best example of protecting or advancing freedom of information principles, and/or overcoming significant resistance to the application of the First Amendment. The award is sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University’s Free Speech Center.
From the judges:
This is a great example of the awards criteria – protecting or advancing freedom of information principles, and/or overcoming significant resistance to the application of the First Amendment. Ed Williams had a hard job – how do you find messages that are disappearing? – but his cultivation of sources led to a shocking abuse of public records law and the public’s right to know. He performed an invaluable act of public service, and New Mexicans are the better for his reporting.