Libel & Slander

Libel and Slander are both terms used to describe defamation. Defamation is the communication of a false statement that ends up harming the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation. Defamation is against the law and legal action can be used against the participants of the crime.

Common law jurisdictions distinguish two types of defamation. One of them being slander which usually involves the making of a defamatory statements by a transitory representation, usually oral representation. The other type, Libel, involved the making of defamatory statements in a printed or other fixed medium, such as a magazine or newspaper. For each type to be defamatory, the statement must be “published” to a third party, either written or orally. Damages are typically to the reputation of the ones doing the defamation. Depending on the severity and laws of the jurisdiction it may be enough to establish mental anguish of the plaintiff.

Commencing a defamation action is not a good idea. For one, people who are targeted by lies may be angry enough to file a lawsuit. The lawsuit would in turn hurt the credibility of the individual, company, group, etc committing the defamation. The publicity that results from the lawsuit can create a much greater audience than the false statements previously generated. Another big issue is that defamation cases tend to be difficult to win, and damage awards tend to be small. As a result of this, it is unusual for attorneys to be willing to take on defamation cases. In almost every defamation case, the plaintiff will win because the ones claiming the false statements have no proof to prove it otherwise true. If the defamation case is taken to court and the plaintiff wins, the damages done to the ones who committed the defamation are exponential. Ranging from a financial stand point to credibility. People assume that defamation applied to only newspapers and other media outlets but individuals can find themselves as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit in more mundane situations. Although it may prove difficult in court to prove that the false statement caused harm to the plaintiff, the law will actually assume that there was damage done to the individual’s reputation.

It is easy to avoid becoming involved in libel and slander, simply be careful before making accusations about another person to a third party that could arguably impute a crime or hurt the integrity of an individual. While the defendant might believe that their statement is true, telling them to a third party could get them sued. Check sources thoroughly before making an accusation. A source can have a vendetta against the subject and willfully or unintentionally misrepresent facts. Do not rely on someone else to be accurate. Also, never let your opinion about someone who is a public figure or official color your decision to verify accuracy of a story. They could be lying to further their career and damage someone else’s. Be cautious when editing and make sure the story does not convey the wrong information or misrepresents information. If contacted by someone threatening to file a libel or slander suit, be polite, but no not admit error or fault. Take to an editor, supervisor or attorney immediately and follow procedures established by the company. Lastly, as a general rule of thumb, always think before you speak.

(Photo Credit: Google)


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