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Wed May 20, 2020, 06:19 PM

ACLU files lawsuit over Puerto Rico 'fake news' laws feared by journalists covering pandemic

"The laws chill a great deal of reporting on the COVID-19 crisis and other emergencies, because journalists risk prosecution," the ACLU said.

May 20, 2020, 4:49 PM CDT
By Tim Stelloh

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Puerto Rican government over what the group called a pair of “fake news” laws that it says authorities can use to punish reporters covering the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit, brought in federal district court, was filed on behalf of two journalists, Sandra Rodríguez Cotto and Rafelli González-Cotto. Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and other officials are named as defendants.

According to court documents, one of the provisions criminalizes raising “a false alarm” over an imminent catastrophe, during a state of emergency, or to “spread rumors” about “non-existing abnormalities.”

The second provision, enacted April 6, makes it a crime to “transmit by any means” false information with the intention of creating confusion, panic or public hysteria, according to the documents. The group says violators could face a maximum of three years in jail and $5,000 fine.


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