Libel and Defamation

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Libel and Defamation

Defamation is the expression of an untrue insinuation against a person’s reputation. 

The two types are: Libel is defamation in permanent form, mostly the written word; Slander is defamation in a non-permanent form, usually speech.

One point to note is that defamation is not limited to linguistic forms and visual forms such as photographs, paintings, illustrations, status and bodily gestures can also be regarded as defamatory.

Generally, you need to prove that:

  • The allegations have been published to one or more persons (other than yourself)
  • The allegations refer to you – either that you are named, pictured or are identifiable in some other way
  • That the words tend to lower you in the eyes of right thinking members of society.

In slander cases, you will also need to prove that you have suffered financial loss, unless the allegations relate to your profession or an offence punishable by imprisonment.

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Court proceedings must be issued within one year from the date of publication although not necessarily the first date of publication. For example, if a publication is online then you will have 12 months from the date that it is last published, Also, if the publication is a book and it remains available for sale, then you will still in theory be able to take legal action.

If a defamation claim is successful at trial, you are usually awarded a sum in damages, an injunction will be granted to prevent future publication of the allegations complained of, and your opponent will be ordered to pay your legal costs. Many defamation cases are often settled before trial and if that happens, the terms of settlement will be negotiated between the parties.