Media Law 3# Defamation

The Law of defamation is to protect a person’s reputation. Part of a person’s reputation is objective facts therefore saying that someone is bad at there job is a defamatory statement if there is no evidence of this and if it is not a fact.
Clearly a journalist has an opinion, these are fine. They can even be rude but as long as it is only an opinion. When a person has felt that they have had a defamatory statement written about them ‘Faith is bad at her Job’ this is clearly more than an opinion and the writer is convincing the readers that this is a fact I could sue for libel.
In Libel people do not have to prove that the statement has damaged their reputation they only have to prove that they might be damaged.

There are two types of defamation

  • Oral defamation- slander. This must be something a third person must have heard. Slander is not something a journalist needs to worry about.
  • Published defamation- libel. A newspaper or television broadcast, something that is published in a permanent form which identifies a particular person.
Libel is Identification, Defamation, and Publication.

With Identification on newspapers there is usually a photo of the person the article is about. As there may be millions of Faith Thomas’s therefore a photo is next to the name to justify which one. This is to prevent all the people of same name gaining negative reputation.
If someone sues you because you made a defamatory statement, you can defend your speech or writing.
There are three main types of defence:
  • Justification: ‘It is true and we can prove it’ Stick to the facts
  • Fair comment: comment and not fact, honest opinion but always try to add positive opinions if there are negatives
  • Absolute Privilege and Qualified Privilege- a journalist has qualified privileges as must be within the law. As long as we are fair, accurate and fast then things will be fine J
Looking through recent cases the internet-related libel cases in England and Wales rose from seven to 16 in the year ending 31 May. So not only do you need to be accurate with what you say in newspapers the online libel cases link to social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

There are a handful of recent cases where celebrities are sued for libel or have been sued in this case:

Courtney Love the widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, made several "menacing and disturbing" statements on the internet towards a fashion designer, and was sued for libel.  

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