New year — new Defamation Act

By Amber Melville-Brown 

The new year has brought those of us operating in the field of media law a new act — the Defamation Act 2013 — which came into force on 1 January 2014. Now, call me cynical, but operating mainly on the claimant side of the media divide, I doubt very much whether many editors up and down the land made new year resolutions to henceforth only fill their papers with accurate and important public interest information, rather than titillation and gossip. And if this is the case, the new act will have its work cut out during 2014 in seeking to achieve justice between the media on the one hand and those caught in its glare, on the other.

It certainly seems to many of us whose professional lives are spent in protecting the reputations, brands and private lives of our clients that the press has been bellyaching for years about the unfair nature of the defamation system. True, the defence of justification requires them to prove the truth of what they include in their pages if they wish to publish and then defend as true serious allegations, unlike in the US where the burden is on any claimant who has the temerity to complain about a defamatory allegation to show that it is not true. And if that person happens to be a public figure, then they have to show that the media organisation had actual malice to boot…

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