British ruling shields ‘responsible journalism’

Britain’s House of Lords has ruled that publishing or broadcasting a report on a matter of intense public interest or importance is not defamatory, even if the story turns out to be false, if the media organization adhered to the standards of “responsible journalism.” The October 2006 ruling expands the scope of the defence of qualified privilege and is being hailed as a major victory for investigative journalism. While Canadian courts are not bound to follow the precedent, the ruling should have an impact on defamation law in Canada. Toronto media law specialist Peter Downard analyzes the ruling in the October 2006 Defamation Bulletin. Read the judgment.