FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2017
Contact: Mary Connolly
CFOG Essay Contest Chair
Greenwich, East Lyme, West Haven students win top prizes in 2017 CFOG Essay Contest; honorable mentions to students at six schools
Michelle Xiong, a junior at Greenwich High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government high school essay contest.
She wrote about President Donald Trump’s proposal that libel laws be “opened up” to make it easier for public figures to sue news organizations and commentators for a “hit piece.”
“Over 200 years after the famous Zenger trial, Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “open up” libel laws is a selfish idea that would only open the doors again to the abuse of power,” she wrote. “The press occupies a critical role in a democratic society. Current libel laws and interpretations of the First Amendment are designed to ensure government institutions and public officials can be held accountable.”
CFOG, a nonprofit educational organization, sponsors the essay contest each year to encourage thought and debate among students on public and freedom of information issues and to increase student knowledge of the value of open government in a democratic society.
A second prize of $500 was won by Ben Guzman, a senior at East Lyme High School. He wrote about whether the First Amendment prevents the federal government from creating a registry of all Muslims living in the United States.
“President Trump’s controversial plan for Muslims stands no chance of being executed without violating the U.S. Constitution and facing a barrage of protests and legal challenges,” he wrote. “While the president does have a lot of power over immigration policy, no past policy has restricted immigration based solely on one’s religion.”
A third prize of $300 was won by Charlotte D’Inzeo, a junior at West Haven High School, who also wrote about Trump’s proposal on libel laws.
“Additional restraints on a free press would allow excessive government control and censorship of the media,” she wrote. “A censored media would create a chilling effect on free press and free speech, a direct contrast from the Founding Fathers’ intention.”
Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Catherine Baumgarten of Greenwich, Ariba Chaudhry of Amity Regional High School in Woodbridge, Elizabeth He of East Lyme, Colby Laracuente of Trumbull High School, Arielle Marinduque of West Haven and Alexa Urmaza of Northwest Regional High School in Winsted.
Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics:
- Donald Trump has suggested that libel laws be “opened up” to make it easier for public figures to sue news organizations and commentators for a “hit piece.” Should new limits be imposed on First Amendment protections and how would that be done?
- Does the First Amendment prevent the federal government from creating a registry of all Muslims living in the United States?
- During the 2016 campaign, emails that were embarrassing to Hillary Clinton were stolen and released to news organizations. Intelligence reports say they were stolen by Russian hackers. Should the First Amendment protect journalists’ use of stolen information obtained from sources?
Judges for the contest were Janet Manko, Martin Margulies, Tom Crider, Lyn Hottes, Forrest Palmer, Eileen FitzGerald and Mary Connolly.