The First Amendment Foundation views with alarm calls for legislation that would reduce legal protections for speech about government officials and public figures.
“We are deeply concerned that Florida is attempting to turn back the clock on legally protected free speech that criticizes public figures and elected officials,” said First Amendment Foundation Executive Director Bobby Block.
A Tuesday press release from Governor Ron DeSantis’ Office called upon the Legislature to adopt legislation making it easier to sue the press. The release followed a roundtable discussion with the governor and media critics in Hialeah Gardens.
The main focus for critics is the 1964 New York Times Co. v. Sullivan U.S. Supreme Court decision and subsequent related cases, in which the court ruled that public officials cannot get legal damages from publications—the press and citizens alike — that report false information unless it was done with “actual malice.” That means the speaker must have known statements were false or entertained serious doubts about whether they were publishing truthful information.