March 27, 2012
The civil liberties that the American people have are described as inalienable rights. One of the most important of these rights is the freedom of speech. Yet freedom of speech is not entirely protected; the First Amendment does not protect publishers of libel. Libel is defined as a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person. The First Amendment provides a great deal of protection to the press in cases involving libel of public figures. This protection is considered necessary to ensure that the government will not restrict the flow of accurate information. The crime of libel has the following elements defamation, publication, the statement must be heard or seen by someone other than victim and source; identification, the statement must somehow identify its intended victim; falsity the statement must, and actual malice. Some of the significant court cases concerning libel are New York Times Co. v Sullivan (1964), Behrendt v. Times Mirror (1938), Pauling v. Globe Democrat (1967), Kervorkian v. American Medical Association (1999), Washington Post v. Kennedy (1924), and Hutchinson v. Proxmire (1979).
Defamation is defined as “the act of injuring someone’s character or reputation by false statements.”  Cases of defamation are only considered attacks on if they are made in a vindictive or malicious manner. One of the most important Supreme Court decisions concerning libel of public officials took place in 1964. This case was New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. This case was about the alleged libel of L.B. Sullivan in the New York Times magazine. The magazine published an editorial advertisement entitled, “Heed Their Rising Voices” by the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King. The full-page advertisement detailed abuses suffered by African American students by the police in Montgomery, Alabama. Even though he was not directly mentioned in the article, L.B. Sullivan, the city commissioner in charge of...
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