Defamation in Tort

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  • Topic: Defamation, Tort, Human rights
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  • Published : April 24, 2013
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TORT TUTORIAL 7
* Differences between libel and slander. Is the distinction of practical significance?

Defamation protects an individuals reputation.

 Slander refers to a malicious, false, and defamatory spoken statement or report (non- permanent), while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images.(permanent) The fundamental distinction between libel and slander lies solely in the form in which the defamatory matter is published. If the offending material is published in some fleeting form, as by spoken words or sounds, sign language, gestures and the like, then this is slander. Libel is actionable per say (without proof of actual harm) in itself whereas damages must be proven for slander. Libel may be prosecuted as a crime while slander may only be prosecuted as a tort. * To what extent is the media protected by qualified privilege when reporting on issues of public interest?

It is not available if the statement complained of was made malice, which can mean with a bad motive or simply without an honest belief that the statement was true.

* What impact has the human rights act1998 had on the law of defamation?

(Defences to a claim of defamation include:

i. Justification (substantial truth) - a complete defence, not defeated by malice and which recognizes that a statement may damage reputation but also acknowledges that reputation cannot be upheld by concealing the truth;

ii. Privilege - on account that dissemination of the information outweighs the protection of reputation when such information is in the public interest. Privilege comprises two distinct defences:  a. Absolute privilege - for situations of utmost importance such as parliamentary proceedings, judicial proceedings, or for official state communications (executive privilege) and, b. qualified privilege - for communication of information in circumstances where there is a duty for the information to be given and received. There are 2...
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