Upon viewing a report, Mr. A (a politician) had made a statement about Mr. C that he had used the public funds for a national cattle farming project to purchase three units of houses. Mr. C sued Mr. A on the basis that the defamatory statement made had tarnished his reputation and character. Can Mr. C sue Mr. A on the grounds of defamation?
Q: What is defamation?
A: Defamation is a statement made by a person that tarnishes a person’s reputation. It can be made in writing (considered “libel”) or orally (considered “slander”).
Q: Must Mr. C incur financial losses before he can sue Mr. A?
A: No, he can sue for damages as long as his reputation is tarnished.
Q: Is there any defence to an action for defamation?
A: If Mr. A has genuinely given a view on a fact proven to be true, he can then raise the defence to his statement made, that is, he has only made a “fair comment” rather than a defamatory statement.
Q: What is a “fair comment”?
A: A “fair comment” is a comment given based on proven fact.
Three elements of a “fair comment”:
- The comment was on a matter of public interest;
- The comment was based on facts; and
- The comment was one which a normal person would have honestly made on the facts proved.
Q: Is there a cap to compensation on defamation?
A: There is no known cap. The court will look at the facts and the following factors to decide how much the compensation would be:
- The seriousness of the content of the statement;
- Mode of publication;
- Nature of the statement;
- The plaintiff’s current standing;
- Whether the defendant has received any benefit from making such statements;
- Whether the defendant has refused to apologise; and
- What has the defendant done for the period of time between the time he made the defamatory statement and the court finally decides the case.
Q: How long is the limitation period to file a claim for defamation?
A: For West Malaysia, the limitation period is 6 years from the date the defendant published the defamatory statement.