04 May Defamation – What is it?
When I was studying this subject my law professor was not enthused about this subject. This was largely due to the fact that he considered it to be about rich people pursuing other rich people and clogging up the courts. In some respects he is right; many of the cases that we see have little relevance for the everyday person in ordinary life. For example do you remember Jason Donovan where it was claimed that he was homosexual (wrongly) or perhaps Berkoff v Burchill where the actor sued against claims that he was ugly.
There are three elements to defamation: the statement must be defamatory about claimant, it must be published and the statement must be calculated to injure the reputation of another by exposing them to hatred content or radical. In the celebrity age where reputations can increase or decrease earnings considerably the law does provide protection.
One of the most interesting cases of late is the Max Mosley v News Group Newspapers; where it was alleged that five women role-played in Nazi uniform and mocked the suffering of the Jews in the Nazi war camp. Did the press have the right to expose this sort of behaviour of public life professionals? Max Mosley sued the newspapers under article 8 (privacy of family) of the Human Rights Act 1998. He claimed that it was an invasion of his privacy to family life. The Human Rights Act provides individuals with a whole host of basic human rights. The judge agreed with Mosley and held that the papers had been in breach of his human rights. In the aftermath of this decision and other ones to. For example the photographing of Naomi Campbell leaving a drug rehabilitation clinic, where it was ruled that the press do not have the right to publish such personal confidential information. The press in the UK has been claiming that this is unfair. Why?
Whether one morally agrees with the alleged acts, it does raise some rather interesting questions one may hope by such rulings that the press is now forced to report news that is more relevant to society; instead of the current doorstepping of empty and vacuous media personalities. One may hope that they will concentrate on exposing corruption within different levels of society. Would it be too much to ask that instead of devoting large proportions of newspapers space to such easy targets like A B and C Celebrities. They Instead of go after harder targets, and questionable policies an decisions. For example the current economic crisis did not happen overnight. I’m sure that more questions should have been asked at the level of lending in relation to unsecured loans. If it had we might not be facing the current crisis. What one does in private should not be the concern of the general public. What happens in public bodies is very much our concern. Whistleblowers are protected as our number of other individuals including MPs from liable for defamation in the Houses of Parliament. If we are not asking the questions then nobody is thinking.