I whole-heartedly believe that freedom of the press in America is something that should be conserved and protected. Although the lines can be blurred in terms of which instances it should be used as a shield, I think there are a few instances that paint a clear picture of how critical First Amendment rights are.
First and foremost, it is the utmost responsibility of a reporter or journalist to report on issues that concern and are matters of public interest. The First Amendment is critical when it comes to covering specific topics such as political issues, government issues, or even concerns throughout society.Without First Amendment rights, there would be no true investigative journalism. Without First Amendment rights, reporters would not be able to provide the necessary information needed to be fully transparent. Sometimes, things can get even more complicated than that.
First Amendment rights are supposed to protect journalists from being forced to reveal their confidential sources. But that hasn’t always been the case. As recently as 2018, a Chinese-American journalist, Catherine Herridge was ordered to reveal her source after publishing a story where she reported that a scientist was under FBI investigation. In short, I feel like journalism work should be protected through First Amendment rights, except in cases of defamation.
The weaponized defamation lawsuit against the media is concerning because it suppresses a reporter’s investigation and coverage. If a reporter is doing their job and they’re investigating their issue correctly, then they should not be subject to intimidation or punishment. Some counterarguments that a plaintiff would want to address in the bringing of a defamation suit would be simply bringing truth as the defense. Truth is the number one defense that a plaintiff could have in a defamation suit because defendants cannot argue that what the reporter has written was false if it is proven to be a statement of fact in a court of law.
A more recent case where First Amendment rights were a concern for media members was Fox News Vs a Venezuelan businessman. The Venezuelan businessman accused Fox News of defamation by making false claims about him in the 2020 election. Fox News believed that the businessman’s defamation claim was a threat to the First Amendment. Because of the lawsuit, Fox’s reputation was battered, and Fox argued that the loss would destroy press freedoms. Although this case reached a settlement, it still posed a threat to the press and First Amendment rights.
Despite not being bulletproof — as the Tejaswi Surya of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s case showed — where he prevented the media from reporting on his sexual misconduct allegations, I believe Anti-SLAPP laws are beneficial to society.
Anti-SLAPP laws are beneficial to society for various reasons. These laws vary from state to state, protecting individuals and organizations from lawsuits that aim to stifle free speech and are filled with criticism. These laws are beneficial because they help to reveal the truth, and they don’t silence anyone from speaking out about, or criticizing public figures.
Anti-SLAPP lawsuits can also help save costs and time, as one of their essential functions is the ability to dismiss insignificant lawsuits before they begin to gain any steam in court. Because of early dismissal of lawsuits, people in the public who don’t have the financial means to participate in a lengthy trial would have be able to have their cases dismissed, saving them time and unnecessary expenses. In terms of expenses, Anti-SLAPP statutes give defendants the opportunity to recover fees and potential damages from the plaintiff, which then discourages the filing of SLAPP suits because of its financial risks.
First Amendment rights are in constant debate, and sometimes it can be unclear whether we have crossed the line in violating this right; however, because laws were made to protect the press and the public, there are ways to counteract lawsuits and prior restraint.