Meaning of Libel and Defamation

Defamation law is the generic word used to cover the area of law relating to personal and corporate reputation. If a communication is written, or on tv or radio or other permanent form (ie recorded), it would be covered by libel law; if a communication is in transient spoken form it is covered by the law of slander. A person is defamed, libelled, or slandered if the words used expose that person to any one or more of the following risks:

  • exposed to hatred, ridicule, or viewed with contempt, or
  • shunned or avoided, or
  • lowered in the standing of right thinking members of society, or
  • discredited in his/her trade, business, office, or profession.

The law tries to balance the protection of personal or corporate reputation with the equally important but competing need and human right to freedom of expression. The law allows people to communicate freely on matters that are true, or honest comment, or otherwise privileged or published on a matter of public interest.  Though this may at first glance seem straightforward in reality it can be very complex. The art or skill lies in making a proper assessment of the appropriate evidential requirements to establish, or be able to refute if you are defending, the issues of truth, honest comment, privilege (from suit), and the scope of protection afforded to publications in the public interest. There are other lesser used and situation specific defences which are outside the scope of this website. 

Have you been libelled?

It is important not to over-react or suffer in silence when something wrong and hurtful has been published about you - quick and expert professional advice can often help.

Visit our victim of libel page to find out how we can assist you.

Have you received a threat of a libel claim?

An accusation of libel is stressful and a huge drain on time, especially for busy editors, who need to focus on getting their latest edition out without distraction. The story may have been "hardhitting" and even "harmful" but nevertheless can be defended on grounds of public interest. The only effective solution in this situation if to get early and expert advice. We offer fixed quotes for work with "no-nonsense" practical solutions, based on decades (established 1991) of experience. The threat can be even more daunting for individuals outside the media world. We can help them too.

Visit our accused of libel page to find out how we can assist you.