Reporters Without Borders criticizes Florida’s proposed media law

icon image. Photo: About dts news agency

03/20/2023 1:03 p.m

Berlin. The non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has criticized a draft law in the US state of Florida that would abolish the current “journalist privilege”. “If this law goes into effect, media professionals in Florida will have to think twice about reporting critically,” said RSF board spokesman Michael Rediske on Monday.

According to the RSF, the planned change in the law would make it much easier for public figures to sue media workers for critical reporting. Public officials would then “hardly have to fear that their misconduct will be denounced,” says Rediske. Bill HB 991 is currently before the Florida House Judiciary Committee. Introduced by Republican Rep. Alex Andrade, the bill would make it easier to sue journalists for defamation.

According to the RSF, the draft contradicts a 1964 US Supreme Court ruling that protects media professionals from libel suits when they control the activities of public officials. If passed, the law could result in it going to the Supreme Court. The journalism organization fears the 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan case could subsequently be overturned. Since this landmark ruling, any public figure who wants to sue a journalist for defamation must clearly prove that the statements were made against their better knowledge or maliciously.

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