TORT – DEFAMATION

What is Defamation?
When there is a publication of a statement that lowers the reputation of another person.

How many types of defamation and what are they?
Two

  • Libel
  • Slander

What is Libel?

  • Defamatory statement in a permanent form.
  • E.g. e-mail, articles, Facebook posts, WhatsApps messages.

What is Slander?

  • Defamatory statement in a temporary form.
  • E.g. spoken words.

Methods of interpreting the words in an allegedly defamatory statement?

  • By their natural and ordinary meaning
  • By innuendo

What is Innuendo?

  • Ordinary words would have a special meaning to those with special background.

E.g. “Mr. A is enjoying his honeymoon with Mrs. X, who he married two weeks ago” may not appear to be defamatory in its ordinary meaning. However, if Mr. A is in fact married to someone other than Mrs. X, then the statement about Mr. A could be defamatory by way of innuendo to those who know the true story about Mr. A.

Elements of Defamation

  1. The words are defamatory; and
  2. The words refer to the plaintiff, and
  3. That the words have been published.

What are the Defences for Defamation?

  1. Justification
      • This defence can be raised if the defendant can prove that the published statement was actually true.
  2. Unintentional Defamation
      • The Defendant unintentionally or innocently publishes defamatory material of another person.
      • E.g. A reporter writes what is alleged to be defamatory article in a magazine.
  3. Fair Comment
      • The statement made is an honest expression of an opinion about a matter of public interest.

Factors that Taken into Account by Court in Assessing Damages

    • The seriousness of the libel
    • The defendant’s behaviour from the time of the libel to the time judgment is given
    • Any malice on the part of the Defendant

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