Proposed Florida laws are troubling

State legislative sessions are in full swing around the country, and with that comes some states’ continual push to try to limit the freedom of the press and shield themselves from the scrutiny of the fourth estate.
Look no further than in Florida where the legislature is pushing a bill that would require any blogger who writes about Gov. Ron DeSantis — and is paid for their work — to register with the state ethics commission or the Florida Office of Legislative Services. They must do so within five days of their first post.
Bloggers would also be required to register with the state if they write anything about Florida’s lieutenant governor, a cabinet officer, or any member of the Florida legislature, per the bill. S.B. 1316 would mandate that bloggers submit monthly reports about their work if they write about elected officials, including how much payment they received for their articles, rounded to the nearest $10, and the name of the “individual or entity” who paid them.
Politicians in Florida in favor of the proposed law claim bloggers are lobbyists, who also have to register. We see this as nothing more than an attempt to further limit any bad press DeSantis—who is among the frontrunners for the GOP nomination for president—could get. We’re guessing if a blogger is writing positive things about the governor he wouldn’t be so gung ho about making sure they were “registered.”
We don’t register journalists and writers in this county. The idea of doing so is preposterous and a clear attack on the freedom of the press, which is essential to a democracy.
That’s not nearly as preposterous as another scheme  being hatched in Florida. According to Politico, at the governor’s urging, Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature is pushing 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.
Beyond making it easier to sue journalists, the proposal is also being positioned to spark a larger legal battle with 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, according to state Rep. Alex Andrade, the Florida Republican sponsoring the bill.
This would be a horrifying step backward for free speech at the freedom of the press, and more importantly, our job to serve as the overseers of our elected officials. If politicians can sue every time something is written about them they don’t like, wouldn’t the sole purpose of that be to discourage journalists from digging into controversial issues? Is this North Korea?
“Journalists do not work for the government and it’s none of the government’s business how journalists gather news,” said Seth Stern, director of advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
We agree wholeheartedly. This is a brazen attack on the free press, as is the blogging bill. It is our hope these bills end up going nowhere or are struck down by courts.

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