A bill introduced Aug. 2 in the U.S. Senate would enable news media to counter SLAPP suits filed to suppress their reporting.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R–Ariz., introduced the Free Press Act of 2012 (S.B. 3493), a measure designed to protect the First Amendment rights of journalists and Internet service providers by giving them a mechanism to combat “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” or SLAPPs.
Under the measure, the media could file a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that “arises in whole or in part” from reporting “on a matter of public concern or that relates to a public official or figure.”
“The Free Press Act of 2012 responds to a number of recent incidents in which defamation lawsuits have been used to try to squelch criticism of particular groups and individuals,” Kyl said.
The bill would not apply to lawsuits filed by the federal government or state attorneys general. It also would not apply to claims arising out of commercial speech, defined as “a statement offering or promoting the sale of goods or services of the person making the statement.”
The measure was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.