Libel is one of the two kinds of defamation; slander being the other one. Libel occurs when an individual makes fabricated written publications about another individual or business organization that causes harm. The law provides solutions for those who are harmed by others. Nevertheless, the law also seeks to supply certain types of defense for those who are charged with defamation. Although the First Amendment assures freedom of speech, it also makes libel cases quite complex.
Several protections are available for defendants in defamation cases. One legal defense against libel and slander is innocent dissemination. In order for the court to accept it as a defense, the defendant must substantiate that he has no motive to consider that the published material would comprise libel, had no information that what he had printed or circulated was libelous and that this absence of information was not because of carelessness on his side. However, this defense can only be cited by those who are incidentally connected with the publication or distribution of the defamatory material. It can be invoke as legal defense against libel by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), distributors and printers who only provided the medium for the defamatory material’s publication. This type of defense cannot be cited by the commercial publisher, editor and the author.
Another legal defense against libel is honest opinion, which replaced the fair comment defense when the Defamation Act was enacted in 2013. It can only be invoke however if the defendant can confirm that the publication in question was just an opinion, that somewhere within the publication there was evident basis to the opinion and that the statement made is one that a truthful person could have made.
The law conventionally deduced that a statement was untrue once a plaintiff showed that it was defamatory. Under contemporary law, a complainant who is a public figure or public official must prove deceptiveness as a requirement for recovery. Phoniness is a factor of libel that any complainant must prove in order to recover. In cases where falsity is not a requirement, truth provides as a positive defense to an action for defamation. It is not required that a statement is accurately true in order to invoke this defense. Courts only require that the statement is significantly factual in order for the defense to take effect. In other words, even if the respondent avers some facts that are untrue, if the essence of the statement or publication is substantively true, then the respondent can count on the defense.
Another legal defense against libel is the absolute privilege of a respondent due to his status or position. Otherwise termed as immunity, the defense is not based on the intent of the respondent in making a false statement or on the type of statement. The law provides that under certain circumstances, some officials should be safeguarded from liability such as in legislative and judicial proceedings; executive publications, publications required by law and between spouses.
When complainants agree to the publication of libelous material about them, then such assent is a total legal defense against libel.