House Judiciary Advances Bill to Extend First Amendment Protections to Foreign Courts
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would protect South Dakotans from facing defamation lawsuits in other countries. Under Senate Bill 174, state residents would receive the same kind of freedom of speech protections in other countries as is granted by the U-S and South Dakota Constitutions. Senator Dan Lederman is the bill’s primary sponsor. He says other states have already passed similar laws following some instances where writers are sued in countries that don’t have First Amendment rights.
“This disturbing trend is usually called libel tourism. It shouldn’t concern anyone thankful the US affords its citizens First Amendment rights. Libel tourism is especially active against anything published that deals with international terrorism. US publishers, authors and distinguished news organizations are so scared of libel tourism that many have begun to refrain from publishing anything dealing with international terrorism. This stifling of free speech due to the fear of foreign lawsuits is a pernicious form of foreign censorship,” Lederman says.
Lederman says there has also been a case of a publishing company destroying copies of a controversial book. Other supporters of the legislation say all Americans should receive maximum protection of First Amendment rights. Members of the House Judiciary committee advanced Senate Bill 174 after a few amendments. The bill now heads to the House floor.