Law Provisions for Journalists Facing Defamation Cases Essay

Law Provisions for Journalists Facing Defamation Cases Essay

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Law Provisions for Journalists Facing Defamation Cases

The law of defamation exists to protect both the moral and
professional reputation of the individual from unjustified attacks.
The law tries to strike a balance between freedom of speech and a free
press with the protection of an individual's reputation.

Should journalists face defamation cases there are defences available.
Justification is one of these defences, to use this defence the
journalist must prove that what they have written is substantially
true. Before the defamation act of 1952 was passed, to succeed with a
defence of justification you had to prove the exact truth of every
defamatory statement made in the article in question. But now under
section 5 of the act, the law states that the defence will not fail
merely because the article contains some minor inaccuracies. However
difficulties still arise as it is not the task of the claimant to show
the article is untrue, but the task of the defendant ie. The
journalist to prove the words written are true. The name
'justification' is misleading because the defendant does not need to
show he had a moral or social reason for publishing the words, the
fact they are true is satisfactory. The journalist has to prove the
article in question is 'on balance of probabilities' which is a lower
requirement than 'beyond reasonable doubt'. An example of this is the
1994 case between television actress, Gillian Taylforth and the Sun.
The Sun used the defence of justification successfully after they
published a front page splash entitled 'TV Kathy's sex romp'. The
article stated Gillian and her boyfriend were having sex in a parked

... middle of paper ...

... defame people. Just by
looking through the daily paper and celebrity magazines one can see a
huge amount of defamatory material. Celebrities are more of a threat
to journalists than those of modest means eg. A journalist may not
hesitate in defaming a person on income support as there is little
they could do with their limited funds. Newspapers often have to
consider whether they can afford not to publish a story, a scoop on a
celebrity may sell millions of papers so they stand to make money even
if they are taken to court and have to pay damages. Sometimes the
story is worth facing a defamation case.


McNae, Essential Law for Journalists, 2003, 17th edition

Peter Carey, Media Law, 1999, 2nd edition

Tom Crone, Law and the Media, 1998, 3rd edition

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