Headline RoundupMarch 14th, 2023

Is Ron DeSantis Attacking Press Freedom or Protecting the Right to Reputation?

AllSides Summary

Florida legislators and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are considering a bill that would call into question the libel doctrine established by the Supreme Court in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. What would that mean for press freedom and libel lawsuits?

For Context: In early February, DeSantis held a roundtable discussion on media defamation practices. The event's webpage says "current law does not provide adequate protection for everyday Floridians to protect themselves from defamatory or libelous speech by news organizations." The state Senate then introduced a bill on "Defamation and Related Actions," which would make it easier to sue for defamation when challenging statements by anonymous sources, and would remove Florida’s "reporter’s privilege" for defamation claims.

Enemy of the Press: Progressives and some libertarians criticized the move. Vox said DeSantis "wants to destroy a fundament of American free speech law." BuzzFeed News (Left bias) said the Florida bill is "aimed at making it easier to sue the news media for defamation," and has "alarmed First Amendment advocates across the country."

Protecting Legal Equality: A guest writer for Newsweek (Center bias) said the bill "is not as an attack on freedom of speech and of the press, but an attempt to provide adequate protection for the right of reputation cherished by all citizens."

Unsure: One Epoch Times (Lean Right bias) writer pondered whether "weak defamation laws in the United States compared to Britain and Europe could be contributing to the greater political partisanship of the American press."

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