In simple language, defamation occurs when there is a statement made that damages or injures the reputation of another person. Defamation can consist of either “slander” or “libel”:
- Slander occurs when the defamatory statement is made through a temporary form (eg: spoken words, or gestures)
- Libel occurs when the defamatory statement is made through a permanent form (eg: social media post, articles, newspaper reports, e-mails, video recordings)
It is impossible to provide an exhaustive list of what statements would be considered defamatory. Generally speaking, a statement is defamatory if it would lower the reputation of another person in the eyes of the public.
Certain statements may be clearly defamatory in their natural and ordinary meaning (eg: falsely informing others that a certain individual is a convicted criminal). However, some cases may not be so straight forward especially when there are innuendos involved.
There are 3 criteria to be fulfilled before one can pursue for a defamation claim:-
- There must be a defamatory element that would lower your reputation in the eyes of the public
- The statement must refer to or your identity.
- The statement must be published to a third party other than you.
Yes. As long as you fulfilled the criteria abovementioned, you could pursue for a defamation claim.
Not necessary. This is not a requirement under the law.
You can demand for a public apology. However, a public apology is not the remedy available under the law. You may propose this as one of the requirements for out-of-court settlement.
These are the typical defences to defamation:
- Justification– This means the statements made were actually true. For example, if A was really a convicted criminal, a statement that A was convicted of a criminal offence, is not defamatory.
- Fair Comment– This is where the statement made is an honest expression of an opinion about a matter of public interest.
- Absolute Privilege– Where a situation or person is covered by absolute privilege, they cannot be sued for statements made even if they are defamatory. An example would be “a fair and accurate and contemporaneous report of proceedings” in court, as well as the “judgment, sentence or finding of such court”.
- Qualified Privilege– This covers situations where the maker of the statement has a legal or moral duty to make the statement, or where the statement is made to further a legitimate common interest.
If you have won the defamation suit, you are entitled to monetary compensation. The amount of the compensation granted shall depend on the discretion of the court based on several factors, such as the reputation of the claimant, the seriousness of the defamation, the loss suffered by the claimant as a result of the defamation and the list goes on.