by Sarah Downey
A new bill scheduled to go before the New Hampshire Legislature this year would compel news outlets to retract stories if a defendant is found not guilty of a crime.
Rep. Jack Flanagan, R-Hollis, told New Hampshire Public Radio he put forth the measure after hearing from two constituents who were found not guilty in criminal cases and who believed their reputations would suffer irreparably without such follow up by the news media.
“People’s lives are being impacted by this, whether it is small business … that was charged for something that didn’t pan out in court, or an individual who could be in the public eye that it was a false claim, and they were completely exonerated, or whatever the case may be, it just leaves the story incomplete,” Flanagan said.
As currently written, House Bill 1157 would require “news media to update, retract, or correct an Internet published article about a criminal proceeding following an acquittal, dismissal, or finding of not guilty.”
Media organizations that fail to comply could face legal action, presumably through a libel lawsuit.
The measure could face challenges on First Amendment grounds. The United States and New Hampshire Constitutions both include free speech protections, as well as the right to a free press.
In Europe, there has been ongoing debate over “Right to Be Forgotten” laws, which have called for search engines like Google to remove links to information that is deemed “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive when a request is filed from an individual about their own search results,” according to a report posted on ITproUK.
The obligation to remove the information is put on the search engine.
“But the ‘right to be forgotten’ is not considered in isolation and must be balanced against other rights, such as that of freedom of expression … with information that’s considered to be in the public interest unlikely to be removed on request,” the post said.
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Sarah Downey is a contributor to The Center Square.