Ethical Question: There’s been a drug problem in a neighbourhood, and you decide
to do a section called “drug watch”. You put the name and picture of anyone arrested
for a drug related crime in that section.
Are you risking defamation and libel suits?
Do you only put in people with a record?
Do you hope saying allegedly will protect you? Still needs to be true.
Are they victims and thus should be protected?
Do you put the mug shot in the paper? Yes, it happens all the time and they are
IRL 4:1 positive response to section
You need to put things in context
Libel–statements that are damaging to reputation, expose a person to hatred.
contempt or ridicule. If the following four categories are present, you’re at risk to be
sued (counts if it’s just repeated info too):
defamation–have to prove fault, malice, and/or negligence (slander is same
o additional QC requirements: public interest, malice (knowledge of
falsity or reckless disregard for truth), doesn’t have to be published in
o Politics, sports, and business must prove more than Joe Schmo
identification–must know who is being libelled
o misidentification can lead to as well
publication–I write it down and somebody else reads it, that’s a problem
o if it wasn’t intended for publication it isn’t considered public or
libellous, unless it’s a letter, then you intended someone else to see it.
o nature of the publication matters too
damages–how did it damage or injure you (ppl stopped coming to my
business or I lost my job are good reasons)—>of you run a retraction or
correction early you can say you tried to limit damages
pg 226-234 of CP style guide
Defenses for libel
truth, can be hard to prove
good faith (I tried to get your side, sorry)
libel and the deceased–if person dies during suit, case is thrown out
o if can prove damage to estate can sue
privilege–what judges, lawyers, MPs, government officials say is protected,
and if you don’t change it and put it in context journalists have that
o public interest-public good worth more than reputation of individual
o hearing from both sides-if other side keeps refusing to comment, you
can say you tried to give multiple sides
How to avoid libel: check your