17 April 2015

Defamation and Media Law Journal 4: Common Misconceptions

Mark Jones
Mark Jones Litigation Lawyer

Satire

One of the common misconceptions that frequently arises in defamation matters is the mistaken belief that if words are humorous then no liability arises.  This is not always the case.  Comedy, satire, cartoons and other forms of such entertainment are all capable of bearing a defamatory meaning.  As highlighted above intention is irrelevant when determining whether words are capable of bearing a defamatory meaning.

In the South Australian Supreme Court case of Cornes v The Ten Group Pty Ltd & others, the court awarded the plaintiff $85,000.00 damages in respect of comments made by comedian Mick Molloy in the course of a television broadcast.

In many instances words which are clearly ironic will not be capable of bearing a defamatory meaning however satire of itself is no defence to a defamation claim.

Allegedly / Alleged

The use of the words ‘allegedly’ or ‘alleged’ will not of itself excuse the publication of a defamation.  The republication of the defamatory words of another is no defence to a claim.  Despite this there is however one important exception to this and that is pending trial in criminal matters.  In such circumstances the use of these terms is imperative.

 

Criminal Defamation

Whilst defamation is no longer a criminal offence in many States it is still a criminal offence in many jurisdictions including Queensland.  Whilst instances of criminal convictions for defamation are extremely rare it remains an offence under the criminal law in certain parts of Australia as for example under section 365 of the Queensland Criminal Code.

 

Deceased Persons

The personal representatives of a deceased person are not permitted to commence or maintain an action on behalf of the estate of the deceased.  Similarly pursuant to the provisions of the Defamation Act 2005 it is not possible to commence or maintain an action for defamation against the estate of a deceased person.

 

 


Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).

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