IFEX Alerts

Reporting on Defamation Lawsuits

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Remember that not all defamation lawsuits are violations of freedom of expression. A defamation suit is a violation of freedom of expression only if at least one of the following conditions is met; that condition must be clearly explained in the alert:

a) Criminal defamation charges have been brought and the penalty for criminal defamation in your country includes prison terms; IFEX considers that defamation offences should never be punished with jail sentences

b) The penalty requested or imposed is greatly disproportionate to the magnitude of the offence

c) The penalty requested or imposed is so large that it will put the media outlet out of business or force the journalist to stop practicing journalism

d) The allegations about the person allegedly defamed were true (since, in a democracy, one is allowed to say the truth, even if the revelation of the truth results in damage to someone's reputation). Note: there are some limitations on this, since publishing certain information or photos, especially if illegally obtained, may violate someone's legal right to privacy

e) The media outlet or journalist had reason to believe that the allegations about the person allegedly defamed were true (even if they were later proven not to be true), given the credibility of the source of the information and given that several credible sources had provided similar information

f) The defamation suit or charges are politically motivated and intended to intimidate the media outlet/journalist from criticising the government

g) A media outlet critical of the authorities is singled out and subjected to a defamation suit for saying the same thing that many media outlets were saying
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
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