DeSantis wants to roll back press freedoms 

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ broken relationship with the mainstream media could get even worse, POLITICO reports.

The contentious Republican governor has encouraged Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature to weaken state laws that have long protected journalists against defamation suits and frivolous lawsuits. 

The proposal is part DeSantis’ ongoing feud with media outlets like The New York Times, Miami Herald, CNN and The Washington Post — media companies he claims are biased against Republicans — as he prepares for a likely 2024 presidential bid.

The proposal will make it easier to sue journalists. It is also being positioned to spark a larger legal battle in the Supreme Court. 

The proposal is looking to 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. 

“This is not the government shutting down free speech. This is a private cause of action,” claimed State Rep. Alex Andrade, the Florida Republican sponsoring the bill.

Yet the proposed bill goes further than simply decrying media bias. 

Free-press advocates call the measure unconstitutional and suggest it could have far-reaching consequences beyond major media outlets.

Experts say they have never seen anything remotely like this legislation, calling it a brazen and blatantly unconstitutional attack on speech and press freedoms. 

Earlier this month, DeSantis held a roundtable with a collection of right-wing personalities and attorneys who he said were media libel law experts. 

The main takeaway from the roundtable, which foreshadowed forthcoming legislation, was that DeSantis believes some journalists make things up.

Andrade’s proposal incorporates many of the elements DeSantis called for during the roundtable, including allowing plaintiffs who sue media outlets for defamation to collect attorney fees; a provision to state law specifying comments made by anonymous sources are presumed false in defamation lawsuits; lowering the legal threshold for a “public figure” to successfully sue for defamation; and repealing the “journalist’s privilege” section of state law. 

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