Sep 29 2010, 8:46pm
not sure if a NZ lawyer can answer if an "organization" can be defamed.
Not that I'm a lawyer, but here's some information about media law in NZ and defamation.
What is defamation?
The publication of a statement about someone that lowers him or her in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, where no defence (usually truth, opinion, or qualified privilege) is available.
A rough rule of thumb: something you wouldn’t want said about you.
What are some examples?
Calling someone dishonest, corrupt, hypocritical, lazy, incompetent, criminal, unfaithful, or financially troubled.
What if a group of people is accused of misconduct?
Can each member of the group sue? It depends. The question is: will readers or viewers understand the accusation as relating to the individual (perhaps equally with the others)? This depends on the size of the group and the inclusiveness of the language.
For example, if a television report asserts that “one official” at a company took a bribe, and the company has only four officials, they could each argue that the allegation reflected on them. If it had a hundred, they couldn’t. In general, for groups bigger than about a dozen, it may be difficult for courts to find that an accusation
against one person reflects on all.
On the other hand, if the language is more inclusive, the range of people who can sue expands. For example, our station accuses “government ministers” of “having their hands in the till”, the accusations will probably be taken as reflecting on each individual minister.
Still, there are limits. If the report accuses “all doctors” of exploiting patients, the group is too wide for individual doctors to say people will think it relates to them.
What are the defences to a defamation lawsuit?
The main ones are truth, honest opinion and qualified privilege.
What is honest opinion?
This defence used to be called “fair comment”. It allows the media others to express opinions, even though they may be critical of someone and harmful to their reputation. The idea is that opinions are matters of evaluation, not truth, so readers can decide whether they agree or not. This defence can protect editorials, blog posts and comments, letters to the editor, reviews, cartoons, talkback, op-ed pieces, and the like. But there are rules. The opinions must be:
- clearly comment, not assertions of fact
- based on provable facts set out or referred to in the story and
- honestly believed.
Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."
"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.
(This post was edited by Ataahua on Sep 29 2010, 8:47pm)