Legality Of Telling Lies
Apparently in The States it is perfectly legal for news media to lie. “In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.”
If I have one ‘political’ concern as a writer and a citizen of the world, it is human rights. And the cornerstone of human rights is freedom of expression. So one might wrongly assume it is hypocritical of me to find this court ruling objectionable.
The reason I do find it objectionable is because it is not a case of freedom expression. It is a case of malicious impersonation. If some con artist pretends to be a certified medical doctor and sells you some snake oil to treat your child’s cancer, he isn’t exercising his freedom of expression.
FOX News is passing itself off as a news source. It isn’t.
Legitimate news media are always required to make a distinction between opinion pieces (editorials) and news stories. Defending freedom of expression means you are bound to have some strange and unsavoury bedfellows. I’ll defend the rights of Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis who want to parade, and political commentators like Rush Limbaugh to express their insane and ill-informed opinions. But they are commentators, and should not claim to be legitimate news sources of information.
I assume it’s unnecessary to add that this is just my opinion. Apparently the Florida Second District Court of Appeals has a different opinion—and unfortunately a more binding one.