It's okay if NegaraKu gets more Amore with second weddings on a sultanah's scale and the bride, even a second-time around, wears a virginal-white gown that trails from the mosque to neighbouring temple or church -- spreading muhibbah around. They should do this aMORE often around this BAH season -- freelunch, freedinner and for desperate writHers, fleesupper3!
But another world of multi-million exchanges is less winsome or tasty -- when a lawyer's letter arrives informing the respondent he's being sued for millions for libel or defamation. A decade or two ago the frequency of such high-mneyed suits moved then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to lament that NegaraKU was becoming -- like in United Kingdom and the United States -- an overly litigious society.
I agree with the wise doctor 100% on this -- See, a pro-Opposition writer shares common ground with an Establishment figure, so I am not totally blinded by educated views. Progressive too.
Before I plead guilty to committing second-hand theft, I shall reprise one of my fave Loyar Buluk stories.
An ageing billionaire oin his deathbed summoned his lawyer, who ran to his beside well nigh doing the 100-metre Olympics sprint. Can you visualise, suited with coat and a necktie almost tied like a hangman's noose, the obedient lawyer arrived panting, still having the energy to say: "Yes, sir! What's your bidding?"
The following is the conversation between hardly perspiring nonagenarian Tycoon and the profusely perspiring Lawyer.
Tycoon: I wish you to get me a Law degree promto. If you must, make a generous donation of a few million pound to get me the scroll, NOW!
Lawyer: "Yes, sir! Your wish is my command!" (Here's my chance to up the prize by a few million, the very thought dries up the sweat on his fast balding forehead, at age 30, pretty fast.)
Armed with the cheque, the Lawyer dashed another 1,500 metres to the accredited body that handles such fast-track express degree awards, mainly to charitable VIPs who are expected to behave like a philantropist-cum-philosopher. An hour later, the Lawyer re-appeared, a scroll in hand.
The Tycoon's face lighed up as he embraced the scroll like he would a grandchild, ecept in his case, he did not have one as all his seven children were important-and-impotent members of the community.
Lawyer, like a Curiosity Cat, bent over and whispered to the dying Tycoon:
"Why Master, do you wish to part with five million just to hold a scroll in thy hands?"
The Tycoon replied: "I know you got the scroll for three, but you upped the prize to five, didn't you?" with a sly smile sliding slowly across his face.
"Well, if you must know....It gives me a high knwoing that when I braethe my last, there will be less one lawyer in this world."
Now you undersatnd why it is so important that you know some basic law, okay! That's rhetorical, so I don't wish to hear from you, my dear ER, for Time's pretty precious to a writer on the run! Just like a Lawyer-lah!
From 2020freelunch, I stole this gem fearful of a lesser charge while she had obtained permission from the original holder (for one month only! So FL, do you erase thy Post after 30 days and I after 27?) I believe she did it out of a sense of duty to Fellow Bloggers after hearing reliable rumours that two femes ones were served a Lawyer's letter each for some Post speaking of funny death at a newsroom.
Desi believes it's timely/dimely that my ER, especially writHers like Desi, read this refresher piece; failure to do this may cost thee handsomely!~~
How to avoid libel and defamation
1. What are defamation and libel?
Defamation is any published material that damages the reputation of an individual or an organisation. This covers material on the internet as well as radio and television broadcasts - so even drama and fiction can be defamatory if they damage someone’s reputation. You can only publish defamatory material if it comes within one of the recognised legal defences. If it doesn’t, the publication will amount to libel and you may have to pay substantial damages.
Libel and slander both require publication. The fundamental distinction between libel and slander lies solely in the form in which the defamatory matter is published. If the offending material is published in some fleeting form, as by spoken words or sounds, sign language, gestures and the like, then this is slander. If it is published in more durable form, for example in written words, film, compact disc and the like, then it is considered libel. (Wikipedia)
The purpose of libel law
Libel law protects individuals or organisations from unwarranted, mistaken or untruthful attacks on their reputation. A person is libelled if a publication:
• Exposes them to hatred, ridicule or contempt
• Causes them to be shunned or avoided
• Discredits them in their trade, business or profession
• Generally lowers them in the eyes of right thinking members of society
2. Get your facts right
The most important point is to make absolutely sure that what you are printing or writing is true. Do not make claims or accusations that you cannot prove. Even if you think you can do this, be cautious. Proving things in court can be very difficult.
The test of what the words mean is what a reasonable reader is likely to take as their natural and ordinary meaning, in their full context - what you intended as the author or publisher is irrelevant.
The burden of proof lies with the defendant
Almost uniquely in English law, in libel cases the burden of proof lies with the author / publisher and not the complainant. In other words, you have to prove that what you write is true. The person you’ve targeted does not have to prove that you’re wrong.
In 1990 McDonalds served a libel writ on several members of a campaigning organisation over the production and distribution of the ‘What’s Wrong with McDonalds?’ leaflet. The legal battle between Helen Steel and David Morris, a gardener and a postman, and the McDonalds corporation became one of the most famous cases in British legal history, not least because it became the longest running British trial.
To win the case, the pair would have to prove from primary sources the truth of their allegations about McDonalds. After hearing all the evidence, the judge (who did find that some of the allegations were true) ruled that the pair had libelled McDonalds because the evidence they called was not enough to prove the majority of their statements. They were ordered to pay damages of £60, 000. The trial was estimated to have cost millions of pounds in legal fees.
3. Three tips for writing
Don’t rely on the literal meaning
You cannot solely rely on proving that your statements were literally true if, when they’re taken as a whole, they have an extended, more damaging meaning. Also, for example, if somebody was guilty of fraud once, calling him a fraudster in a way which might suggest he’s still doing the same may well give rise to a libel which can’t be defended. Be especially wary when referring to events in the past.
Don’t exaggerate in your claims or language
For example, a company may run a factory which produces certain chemicals. For you to suggest that babies will be born deformed as a result may get you into libel trouble.
Innuendo can catch you out
Your comments may not appear particularly defamatory taken at face value, but greater knowledge of a person or situation may make it problematic because of the innuendo. To say Mr Jones doesn’t recycle his waste paper may sound harmless enough. But to people who know that Mr Jones is a Green Party activist, the innuendo of the statement is that he is hypocritical in his politics.
4. Common mistakes and assumptions
It is inadvisable to repeat a defamatory rumour unless you are in a position to prove it’s true. Even if you are contradicting the rumour you should not repeat it. And adding ‘allegedly’ is not enough to get you out of libel difficulties.
If you publish defamatory remarks about people or organisations made by other people you will be just as liable to be sued as they are. So if you can’t prove the truth of their statements, don’t repeat them.
Drawing unprovable conclusions
It is a common mistake to draw unverifiable conclusions from the basic facts. For example, if Mr Brown is seen going into a hotel room with a call-girl, this does not necessarily mean he enjoyed a ‘night of passion’, and will certainly not prove that he did.
Be very careful about the adjectives you use. A misplaced word can result in costly action. If you are campaigning about a factory that releases chemicals into the atmosphere, referring to the factory as ‘poisoning the atmosphere’ is inadvisable!
Representing all sides
Presenting all sides of an argument is often good practice, but is not a defence against publishing defamatory remarks made by or about those involved.
5. Defences against libel
The law lays down a number of ways in which defamatory publications may be defended. If the defences succeed, the publisher wins. But if they don’t succeed, the publisher loses: the complainant will have been libelled and will therefore be entitled to be paid damages and their legal costs. The defences are listed below.
The most usual defence against libel is to prove that the information published is true. But this can be a dangerous route because an unsuccessful plea could increase the damages against you because you will have increased the harm to the complainant. And remember, you must be able to deal with every libellous possibility, such as inference and innuendo. If your statement infers something greater, it is not enough to prove that the statement is just literally true. Merely asserting something will not be sufficient to prove that it’s true - you will need witnesses and documents to back up assertions (whether they’re yours or someone you’re quoting).
Fair comment covers content, mainly opinion, that cannot by its very nature be true or false. To be properly defensible, these comments must be:
• Based on fact
• Made in good faith
• Published without malice
• On a matter of public interest
In 2001, the Daily Mail lost a libel action brought by the former Tottenham Hotspur chairman Alan Sugar over the remark that he was a "miser" when he ran the club because he didn’t give his manager enough money to buy top class players. The jury were not sufficiently persuaded that there was any factual basis for making this comment. They didn’t deem it fair comment. He was awarded £100,000.
Privilege is the defence where the law recognises that individuals should be free to speak their minds (and others to report what they say) without fear of being sued even if they get their facts wrong. It allows people to speak freely in court proceedings and debates in Parliament, and allows for such proceedings to be reported, so long as the reports are both fair and accurate.
"How to avoid libel and defamation" - first published on Apr 23, 2004 in www.bbc.co.uk.
Republished with permission from BBC Action
Network (obtained by freelunchand I'm taking
her word for it, though she did not
take an Oath before five wholly/holy books.)
FREELUNCH: Our legal system is based on the British's. So most of these applies and are best journalistic practices. Let's bring ourselves closer to a civil society, and stop behaving like monkeys living on treetops.
Labels: civil society, come on man, defamation, law, libel
posted by freelunch2020 at 12:35 AMat 2020freelunch.blogspot.com |
DESI:I Lost the date in the rush,
as is common among Journalists on the run; will ask her for another date
with ER's courtly permission.)