Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Court Rulings Thaw 'Libel Chill' in Canada

Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice of the S...Image via Wikipedia
The Toronto Star and The Ottawa Citizen received early Christmas gifts in the form of two unanimous court decisions that may defrost the "libel chill" heretofore caused by Canada's defamation laws that rivaled the United Kingdom's plaintiff-friendly legislation.

The two decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada bolster the rights of journalists by adopting a "responsible communication" defense on matters of public concern by shifting the focus to the journalist's conduct in generating the story of public interest that may result in false reporting that harms an individual's reputation. The court decisions do expect journalists relying on this defense to indicate whether facts or allegations have been verified, to identify sources by name, and to seek out opposing views on the stories they write.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote: "Productive debate is dependent on the free flow of information." The Citizen case reversed a $95,000 jury verdict in favor of a former Ontario Provisional Police officer's alleged exaggerations regarding an unauthorized rescue mission he undertook following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The Star story involved a forestry executive who received a $1.4 million judgment at trial over a story alleging he used his political connections to circumvent the approval process concerning plans to expand a golf course.

The Canadian high court decisions only broadly addressed the factors in determining whether a print article, broadcast report or blog posting satisfy the "matter of public interest" standard to warrant protection under the responsible communication defense.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

1 comment:

  1. Gray hair, gray suit? Hmmm. That's not going to make a post about Canada more interesting. I'd go for Dan Akroyd in drag (but then, I always would.)