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Freedom of Expression and Press Responsibility
Transcript of Freedom of Expression and Press Responsibility
Best Defenses Against a Libel Suit
Freedom of Expression
Four Elements of Libel
: False written (broadcast) defamation
: Spoken false defamation
Libel per se: some words are always libelous (thief, swindler)
Libel per quod: some innocent words become libelous under certain situations (i.e. vegetarian Joe Smith seen eating a steak...he’s president of Vegetarian Society)
: Is the information true and can you prove it is true in court.
: Is the information a “public has the right to know” source, Is the information a “matter of public record.”
FAIR COMMENT & CRITICISM
Milkovich vs. Lorraine Journal Co. 1990
Columnist Ted Diadium asserted in a sports column that a high school wrestling coach lied to a judge
Ohio wrestling team put on probation after a brawl broke out at one of their matches
Ted claimed he wrote his OPINION
Opinion must be based on FACT
The Supreme Court noted in this case that in some circumstances, opinions may often imply an assertion of objective fact.
To win a Libel Suit...
: prove that he or she has actually been defamed and harmed by statements
: prove that he or she has been identified
: prove that defamatory statements have been published
: prove that media were at fault
5. prove that what was published was false
4th Libel Defense: Absence of Malice
New York Times v Sullivan 1964
The Committee to Support Dr. Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South paid $4,800 for the full-page ad titled “Heed Their Rising Voices.”
650,000 issues published, 350 subscribers in Alabama
Sullivan vs. New York Times
civil rights group published ad in NYTIMES concerning a protest in Montgomery, Ad accused the Montgomery, Alabama police of intimidating student protestors at Alabama State University Alabama...several statements were false...court awarded Police Commissioner L.B. Sullivan $500k...Court reversed decision.
***Court Amendment- “
To win a libel suit, public officials must prove that false and defamatory statements were made with actual malice.
Police Commissioner L.B. Sullivan sued for libel
Won $500,000 in the Montgomery Court
Ruling upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court
NY Times vs. Sullivan
Reversed the state court ruling:
Justice William Brennan, writing for the majority said the
media needs some “breathing space”
in fulfilling the function the founding fathers envisioned with the drafting of the First Amendment
Public figures/officials must prove that the media acted with “actual malice” before they can win damages in a libel suit
. In other words, the media source knew ahead of time the information was false and defamatory and printed it anyway.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation
Every person has the right to participate in government and civic affairs, speak freely on public issues and petition government officials for redress of grievances.
Without fear of a law suit
Courtney Love Twibel Case
Verdict: "Love did write the tweet but the plaintiff did NOT prove by clear and convincing evidence that she KNEW the statement was FALSE. "
Sarah Jones vs. The Dirty.Com
The jury awarded Jones $38,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages for a total award of $338,000