Journalism Law – WEEK 1: DEFAMATION

WHAT IS DEFAMATION

DEFAMATION = The action of damaging the good reputation of someone     e.g When the Straw hat pirates were accused of shooting iceberg – their reputation was damaged and they were seen as criminals

  • A statement is defamatory if it’s a lie and it damages a person’s reputation
  • In Law, a statement is defamatory if it “tends to” (Key word “Tends to”
  1. Expose a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt (making someone feel worthless). E.G Luffy was exposed to hatred: the whole of Water 7 wanted to kill him
  2. Causes a person to be shunned or avoided  E.G Local citizens were avoiding the strawhats because they didn’t want to be associated with criminals
  3. Lowers a person in the esteem of right thinking members of society 
  4. Disparages (belittles) a person in their business, trade, office or profession  E.G Spandam was undervaluing and ridiculing Robin, calling her useless.

GOLDEN RULE!! – If you think your story will defame someone, check with the publication’s lawyers.

There are 3 things a person must prove for a defamation claim:

  1. It refers to him – show proof that what was said was actually said about you and not someone else
  2. It is defamatory – Prove that it is a lie or that it is damaging your “good reputation”
  3. It has been published to a third person

Papers are at risk of defamation if they don’t publish the age and address of a criminal in case there’s another person with that same name e.g There may be a Peter aged 36 who lives on Scale Lane that has committed a crime, but there may be another Peter aged 21 who lives on Newland Ave that had nothing to do with the crime – that’s why it’s important to publish the ages and addresses

EXAMPLE OF DEFAMATION PAYOUT:

  • In 2002 two nursery nurses in New Castle were paid £200,000 in damages after papers wrongly accused them of sexual abuse.

DEFAMATION DEFENCES: THE 7 DEFENCES  (JFAQAOR)

Journalists have 7 defences against a defamation claim:

1). Justification (truth) – The defendant (the person that defamed someone) has to prove that what they said about the other person (plantiff) is true AND is also for the benefit of the public i.e the public has to benefit in some way from what was said

e.g if a newspaper publishes a report about someone that claims to be a doctor but actually isn’t and there is no proof to show he is a doctor, the newspaper can’t be sued, and it’s also for the benefit of the public because someone could easily die from some fake doctor

2). Fair  Comment – An honest comment/opinion held by the defendant (the person that defamed someone – journalist in this case) BUT, there are 4 requirements that the defendant must meet before (s)he can use this defence:

  • The comments must be factual
  • The comments must be fair and not biased/exaggerated
  • The comments must be true
  • The comments must be of public interest

3). Absolute privilege – You have absolute privilege for fair, accurate, contemporaneous court reports. You can print anything said in court as long as you publish both the prosecution and the defence case and publish it within days of the hearing.

  • The statements of the defendant (the person defaming someone) are protected in every way and (s)he can’t be held responsible even if the statements are wrong and are made out of spite – You can ONLY get Absolute Privilege in certain places like parliament and if the statements are up to date.

4). Qualified privilege (Akainu vs Aokiji) – This allows journalists to publish defamatory statements but ONLY IF the statements are to inform people and are not out of malice/spite e.g if the marines published a report about Akainu vs Aokiji and said Aokiji lost miserably and was the weakest admiral, they would be at risk of defamation because this is out of malice.

If the journalist wants to avoid getting sued, the statements must be:

  • Published ASAP
  • Accurate
  • Fair

5). Accord and satisfaction – This is where you print a defamatory statement and agree to print a correction. It only works if the person accepts they are happy with this

6). Offer of amends – If you printed a defamatory comment you agree to print an apology and pay damages. It can ONLY be used where you printed without malice

7). Reynolds defence – This defence can be used to report a story which is in the public interest, even if it can’t be proved and has a defamatory statement as long as its responsible journalism

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