Public Discourse in Florida and the Free Press Must Be Protected

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The anti-free speech House Bill 991 goes before a legislative committee meeting Tuesday. 

Common Cause Florida stands in opposition to attempts seeking to curtail the rights of the public and the press. 


TALLAHASSEE — With Sunshine Week underway nationally this week, Common Cause Florida is announcing its opposition to recent attempts to curtail free speech and silence the press in Florida. 

Florida has some of the country’s strongest open meetings and public records laws, a proud history that Common Cause Florida has continuously supported and been a strong advocate for. An informed, engaged public is vital to a functioning democracy and journalists play a critical role in holding our elected officials accountable and providing the public with news and information to make informed decisions. 

But recent attempts in Florida to curtail public discourse and the rights of our press through the introduction of dangerous and reckless legislation should alarm Floridians.

Common Cause Florida is in strong opposition to House Bill 991 and Senate Bill 1220, which are chilling attacks on the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

House Bill 991 is slated for discussion at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in front of the Civil Justice Subcommittee. (Sumner Hall, 404 House Office Building, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, Fla.). 

These bills would make it much easier for politicians and others to stifle free speech by lowering the bar to successfully sue for defamation, and would even incentivize lawsuits in some cases. It would affect news organizations of all types and sizes – liberal, conservative, large national outlets, and small local stations. This legislation, as written, also opens the door to frivolous lawsuits being filed when everyday Floridians post controversial takes on social media or allege their elected officials are engaging in discrimination towards marginalized communities. 

Taken together with recent attempts to curtail the rights of communities to protest and academic freedom at our public universities, these measures would further the disturbing trend of our state government silencing public discourse and dissent through fear. 

“Our rights to free speech and a free press are protected by the First Amendment and are essential for Floridians to be well-informed and able to hold our government accountable,” said Amy Keith, Common Cause Florida’s program director. “Common Cause Florida and our thousands of members oppose any attempts to silence or discourage reporting on our government and institutions.”