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SAN FRANCISCO — A California appeals court on Tuesday ruled that cable news broadcaster CNN Inc. cannot fend off an employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a former producer by invoking the state’s anti-SLAPP statute.

In a 2-1 decision, the Second District Court of Appeal held that the statute—which shields First Amendment activity against abusive lawsuits—has a limited application to litigation challenging the hiring and firing decisions of media organizations.

“Undoubtedly, a producer or writer shapes the way in which news is reported. Thus, defendants’ choice of who works as a producer or writer is arguably an act in furtherance of defendants’ right of free speech,” wrote Justice Elwood Lui. “But this does not mean that defendants’ alleged discrimination and retaliation against plaintiff—a long-term, well-reviewed existing employee that CNN had already deemed qualified and acceptable to shape its news reporting—was also an act in furtherance of its speech rights.”

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