Free press advocates are raising alarms about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's new bill that would make it easier to sue journalists.
As Politico reports, the new bill would loosen libel laws that for decades have protected journalists from lawsuits from public figures.
The goal of the legislation, writes Politico, appears to be to "spark a larger legal battle with the goal of eventually overturning New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that limits public officials’ ability to sue publishers for defamation."
Seth Stern, director of advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, tells Politico that he believes the legislation is a flagrant violation of the United States Constitution's First Amendment.
“I have never seen anything remotely like this legislation,” he said. “I can’t say I have seen every bill ever introduced, but I’d be quite surprised if any state Legislature had seriously considered such a brazen and blatantly unconstitutional attack on speech and press freedoms.”
DeSantis has been notoriously combative with non-conservative media outlets and typically only gives interviews with friendly outlets such as Fox News. This bill, however, would take DeSantis' war with the mainstream press out of the realm of public jousting and into the realm of courtrooms.