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Law And Ethics In Journalism Freedom Of Speech

1594 words - 6 pages

"The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity." (Blackstone)Journalists and their associations can be called upon to defend their freedom against those who are critical of the media and its operations, which often result in a journalist being sued for defaming a person, or organisation's reputation, or hold the party up to ridicule. In the other corner, Freedom of the press is the guarantee by a government of free public press for its citizens and their associations, extended to members of news organisations, and their published or broadcast reporting. While these laws have been practiced over centuries it is important to look at both ideas and conclude if defamation laws and press freedom are compatible.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers". (Morsink, 1999)Defamation laws can be defined as intended primarily to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being. If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading then a tort of false light might have occurred.(Hurst 2007) Jurisdictions resolve this tension in different ways, in particular in determining where the burden of proof lies when unfounded allegations are made, which aides the fine line of whether the law of defamation or freedom of the press should be awarded. (Pearson, 2007 p 52)Defamation laws may come into tension with freedom of press, leading to censorship or chilling effects where publishers fear lawsuits or loss of reputation where individuals have no effective protection against reckless or unfounded allegations. (Pearson, 2007)In law, defamation, which is also referred to as libel or slander, is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. Slander refers to a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. (Pearson 2007)The common law origins of defamation lie in the torts of slander, harmful statement in a transitory form, especially speech, and libel, harmful statement in a fixed medium, especially writing but also a picture, sign, or electronic broadcast, each of which gives a common law right...

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