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Canada moves toward expanded libel defence

By Steven | January 16, 2008

Canada is finally jumping on the US, UK, Australian, South African and NZ bandwagon and providing protection to political (and other public-interest) speech against defamation actions. The Ontario Court of Appeal has created a Reynolds-type privilege for “responsible journalism”. (It’s all obiter, though, and the Canadian Supreme Court has yet to confirm the new direction).

They’ve gone with the UK’s Reynolds/Jameel form of the defence, which is not closely limited to political speech, as in NZ and Australia.

Still, this case helps confirm that our courts are likely to look to the factors set out by Lord Nicholls in Jameel as indications of whether journalists are acting responsibly, and are therefore protected by the defence. This underscores the importance of journalists behaving in line with those factors if they want this extra defamation protection. For those unfamiliar with them, here’s an outline (my book contains more detailed guidance):

Note that there are some who say this is unfair to plaintiffs whose reputation has been besmirched by false, but responsible journalism, because they are left without a remedy. I’m not one of them. One of the key factors in the question of “responsibility” is getting and reporting the other side – so almost all plaintiffs will at least be given a platform to put their views.

Topics: Defamation, General | No Comments »

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