Lawmakers to withdraw bill that proposed restricting press

March 5, 2020 GMT

Democratic lawmakers in Rhode Island have proposed — and quickly backed away — from legislation seeking to prevent media outlets from reporting on news they deem defamatory.

State Sen. Sandra Cano, of Pawtucket, and three other senators filed the “ Stop Guilt by Accusation Act ” on Wednesday. By Thursday, a Senate spokesperson said the lawmakers planned to withdraw the bill.

Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, a co-sponsor of the bill, told WPRI-TV the proposal had been pitched to them as way to protect those accused of crimes but not found guilty.


The legislation argues the state has a “compelling interest” to promote the truth and “to stop the press from serving as a slander machine” by “engaging in defamation in-kind through selective reporting on cases and controversies that cultivate false narratives.”

It says certain news coverage “unduly injures the accused, causing them to be shunned and avoided by the general public due to a cloud of suspicion of wrongdoing that is not accurate as to the original allegations or the relief provided in a case or controversy.”

The American Civil Liberties Union was among those quick to denounce the bill as an attack on the 1st Amendment.

The bill appears to be modeled after legislation that’s also been introduced in Mississippi, The Providence Journal reports.