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Libel
 

Libel

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  • Against the law to smear someone’s reputation through false claims. The court has to balance – Defamation of someone/Freedom of press.
  • Libel – Those who argue for libel do not need to argue their defamation, though the accused (Newspapers) must prove that their reputation was not damaged. Slander – Those arguing for Slander have to argue that defamation did actually occur.
  • McCann story – Article seemed to be mainly based on partisan than fact. The “Opinion” seemed to damage the reputation of the parents. The Independent - “Portuguese detective who published a book alleging that Madeleine McCann died inside her parents' apartment.” Kate and Gerry McCann launched legal action against Goncalo Amaral after he publicly questioned their accounts of what happened to their daughter. Tuesday, 12 January 2010
  • 1 - Facts published, not libel. 2 - Fair opinion relating to public interest? Not libel. 3 – Legal “principle of privilege” – Even if inaccurate, if it was something the public should deserve to know, it would be allowed. HW- What is the law of libel?

Libel Libel Presentation Transcript

  • Rules of Accuracy
    • The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
    • A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognized must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.
    • The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
    • A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is public
  • NUJ Code of conduct
    • A journalist shall strive to ensure that the information he/she disseminates is fair and accurate, avoid the expression of comment and conjecture as established fact and falsification by distortion, selection or misrepresentation.
    • A journalist shall rectify promptly any harmful inaccuracies, ensure that correction and apologies receive due prominence and afford the right of reply to persons criticized when the issue is of sufficient importance.
  • The British Press & The Law Of Libel (6 marks) Making a Case For & Against
  • Explaining The Nature Of The Law Of Libel
    • One of the most important legal restrictions on the media in Britain is the requirement that the media should not damage a person's reputation through inaccurate or unfair reporting.
    • The courts have a duty to protect the right of an individual not to have his or her reputation diminished by unjustified attacks . But the courts also have a duty to protect freedom of expression and to permit the media to investigate and expose illicit, unjust or scandalous conduct. This is often a difficult balance to achieve in practice.
    • .
    Extension/Case Study Task: Find two recent newspaper report- where is could (or has been) argued that freedom of expression was clearly more important than the right of the individual not to have his/her reputation diminished
  • Defining & Explaining The Law of Libel
    • Defamation is an umbrella term used to describe libel and slander. A person is defamed if someone makes a statement about them that would cause someone else who heard or read the statement to think worse of the person the statement is about.
    • Libel is defamation in a permanent form, such as a newspaper article and as a result of the Broadcasting Act 1990, statements broadcast on television and the radio, even though these involve spoken words
    • Slander is defamation in a transitory form, such as a speech -
    • Someone who wants to bring proceedings for libel does not need to show that they have suffered any loss or damage . By contrast, someone who wants to bring proceedings for slander would need to show that they have suffered actual loss, e.g. they have lost business as a result of the defamatory statement.
    Extension/Case study Task: To what extent what extent could it be argued that shifting the burden of proof for libel i.e. the complaints does not need to show that they have suffered any loss or damage to the rules of slander, address concerns about the rich and celebrates greedily suing newspapers even after the newspaper concerned have apologised.
  • To bring a defamation claim, the following conditions must be satisfied:
    • Libel statements must be in a form of words which would tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally expose the claimant to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or cause the claimant to be shunned or avoided.
    • 2. The statement must identify the claimant. He/she need not be specifically named; provided that someone would recognize that the statement was about them (e.g. the Chief Executive of X Company), the subject could bring a defamation claim .
    Extension/Case Study Task: Find and prepare an account (summary) of 2/3 recent examples of a successful libel action taken against a British newspaper. Include in your summary details of the press wrong doings, monetary awards made to the complainant and any criticisms made of the newspaper or indeed future conduct recommendations
  • What defence can a Newspaper make against a claim of defamation?
    • In attempting to balance the right to reputation with the right to freedom
    • of expression, the courts have developed a number of powerful
    • defences to claims of defamation.
    • It is, a complete defence to show that a defamatory statement is factually true. (Newspaper is not libel)
    • That the statement was merely a fair comment. This means that the statement was a fair and honest opinion on a matter of public interest based on facts that are true. However, in claiming truth or fair comment, the defendant newspaper or radio or television broadcaster bears the onus of proving the accuracy of the facts relied on.
    • In some circumstances, the legal principle of privilege will protect the publication of defamatory statement even when it is factually inaccurate. The principle of ’qualified privilege' protects the publication of many other potentially defamatory statements contained in specified reports and public documents if they are published without malice.
    Extension/Case Study Task: Find a recent case study when a newspaper successfully used this defence. – what ruling was made by the judge?
  • Against Further Statutory – Criticisms of Libel as the best means of dealing with matters of inaccuracy
      • No need for further statutory regulations, as the succession of recent successful libel actions show the law of libel works .
      • Statutory regulations needed as only the rich and powerful can afford to take publications to court.
      • Against further statutory regulation as the rich and famous will greedily sue newspapers even after the newspaper concerned have apologised.
      • Tony Jaffa, a partner at solicitors Foot Anstey, told MPs on the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee that regional newspapers now faced a situation in which the costs of defending a libel action "threatened to put them out of business". (Libel costs threatening regional newspapers, Guardian Feb 2009)
      • Media representatives argue the huge costs in defamation cases often hundreds of thousands pounds more than the actual damages claimed are curbing investigative journalism.
      • Libel tourism - Claims that English law is being abused by claimants from overseas go to the heart of the debate . "Why is it that so many of the world's rich and powerful use English jurisdiction to sue for libel?" asks Kampfner. "Why are they not using the French or German courts? The answer is that England has become the legal equivalent of an offshore tax haven."
    Extension/Case Study Task: To be judged as excellent- try to attach named individual, case studies and/or similar quoted examples to @ least 3 of the claims made above
  • Supports of Statutory – Supporting Libel as the best means of dealing with matters of press inaccuracy
    • Statutory regulation needed as press publications still continue to print ludicrous claims i.e. current regulations like Libel, seem to have very little effect on deterring newspapers from publishing gross inaccuracies.
    • The highest sanction the PCC can give currently is a critical adjudication that the publication has to print. Chairman of the Commons committee, John Whittingdale, said although the press should still be self-regulated, the PCC was widely viewed as "lacking credibility and authority" . "To counter this, we believe that it must be seen to take a far more active role in ensuring that standards are upheld," ( Press watchdog 'needs more power’ Guardian Feb 2010)
    • We should never return to the days where the particular type of press we have in the UK feels able to intrude on ordinary people, say what it likes and destroy lives simply because it knows people do not have the wherewithal to take action. ( Press watchdog 'needs more power’ Guardian Feb 2010)
    • Madeleine McCann was treated as a "commodity" by the UK press, her father Gerry has told MPs . Some reports about the missing girl had been "embellished" or even made up, the culture, media and sport select committee was told. (BBC News March 09)
    • "The suggestion is that there is a large queue of people, loosely classified as 'foreigners', waiting to clog up our courts with libel actions that are without merit and which have nothing to do with our jurisdiction, is not a phenomenon we actually come across in our daily lives," (High court judge Mr Justice Eady December 09). To be judged as excellent- try to attach named individual, case studies and/or similar quoted examples to @ least 3 of the
    Extension/Case Study Task: To be judged as excellent- try to attach named individual, case studies and/or similar quoted examples to @ least 3 of the claims made above
  • Keep Libel but Revamp it
    • What’s needed is a more effective cost control to litigation in defamation proceedings and to ensure that costs in this area are more proportionate and reasonable. "We need to ensure that people's right to freedom of expression is not infringed, and media organisations continue to report on matters of public concern.
    • Editors of small local newspapers bullied by no-win-no-fee solicitors into paying up 10,000 or so on a flimsy case because they can't afford to go to trial. That's chilling. The committee of MPs wants substantial reform and so does everybody else (Libel, privacy and press standards need more careful consideration, Guardian Feb 2010)
    • Investigative journalism in Britain is being "deterred by the threat and cost of having to defend libel actions" , a Commons committee has warned in a historic report that called for a root-and-branch overhaul of the regulation of the press. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee warned that the balance in libel cases had "tipped too far" in favour of those who bring actions. The law should be changed in respect of large corporations reversing the burden of proof so that organizations which sue the media have to prove that accusations are false.
    Extension/Case Study Task: To be judged as excellent- try to attach named individual, case studies and/or similar quoted examples to @ least 2 of the claims made above
  • Is Statutory & Further Statutory Control of The Press The Way Forward?
    • Yes...
    • The harassment of the parents of Madeleine McCann was a new low for the tabloids
    • The 'amnesia' of News International executives suggests that the press cannot be trusted to regulate itself
    • The Press Complaints Commission needs a big stick to keep rogue publications in line
    • No...
    • On the contrary, our imbalanced libel laws are undermining serious investigative journalism
    • Lawyers are gagging the press with excessive costs claims and even trying to ban coverage of parliament
    • If free speech means anything, then self-regulation must be preferable to government interference