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One of the positives about putting journalistic theories or examples in to context is that there is almost always news that it can be related to. Today we discussed Libel and Defamation, two subject areas that are very complex. It seems almost impossible to pin down any one subject that may or may not be libel as almost everyone can be (or not) proven otherwise.

A few definitions did arise and a draconian description of its meaning is that if one person were to make permanent words that may cause third parties to shun and avoid another especially in their line of business then this may be seen as libel.

What this means is if I were to put in print that a goalkeeper was particularly poor at saving goals because someone never taught him to catch that is particular libel as it’s causing defamation of his character and his professional skill. This goalkeeper doesn’t even have to prove that he can or cannot catch a ball, the point would be that I have damaged his reputation.

The claimant has to prove certain things:

1) That my particular statement might refer to him or her

2) That the statement in question has a defamatory meaning

3) That the statement has been communicated to a third-party (in print, publication or broadcast)

How might I defend such an action I hear you ask…

1) I should be able to justify that what I’ve said is true or that I can prove it. This is where keeping notes on everything can be advantageous.

2) I am expressing my free comment. I am entitled to an honestly held opinion as long as I don’t show malice. If I was accusing the goalkeeper of not catching the ball because his parents didn’t bring him up correctly and teach him simple catching skills and that he clearly should have been wearing glasses, the four eyed freak! That particular quote may seem as if I don’t like the man.

3) Journalists are entitled to certain privileges. This has to be looked at in great detail. If ever you are unsure McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists will undoubtedly have the answer (from this point forward it shall be known as the Bible).

Next week’s lecture I will be providing a presentation to the class on transport and environmental issues in local government. I’ll be following on from Lois who performed well in her presentation this week about how local government is financed.

How local governments are financed is partly to do with Formula Grants that are renewed every three years and slightly less provided by public charges (car parking, speeding, council tax).

I will email Marcos to put the powerpoint slides on moodle for later review as it does get quite complicated. Better get started on that!

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