The Sullivan Standard and the Freedom of the Press in U.S

In 1964, in New York Times v Sullivan, the Supreme court made a landmark decision holding the First Amendment freedom of speech protections, limiting, the ability of the public officials to sue for defamation, even if they print false statements as long as they do not act with ‘malice’. It shields the news organizations and journalists, from libel and defamation lawsuits. This measure is called Sullivan’s standard.

Sullivan’s case: In 1960 Civil rights movement leaders made a full page ad in the New York times to raise funds to help their leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. Sixty and the well-known Americans signed it.  The ad described what it called “ an unprecedented wave of terror” of police actions against peaceful demonstrators in Montgomery, Alabama. The ad was exaggerated accusing seriously false statements against the police in charge. L.B. Sullivan , was one of the police in charge sued the New York times for libel charges. Since he was in charge in the police at that time, his reputation was damaged in the community. Sullivan won the case and the New York times were ordered to pay a huge sum as damages. The newspaper appealed the decision to the Supreme Court and argued that it had no intention hurting L.B. Sullivan and had no reason to believe that the contents in the advertisement included false and check their accuracy as if to every public official as that would deplete the essence of the freedom of press. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled in favour of the New York Times. It said that in order, to prove libel, the contents should completely disregard the truth with the malice intent.

On February3, 2022, A U.S. judge found that Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate, did not present sufficient evidence to win a defamation lawsuit against the New York Times, in a case seen as a test of longstanding protections for American media. Palin had sued the newspaper and its former editorial page editor James Bennet, arguing that a 2017 editorial incorrectly linked her to a mass shooting in 2011 that wounded Democratic U.S. congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Arizona.

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