It is much easier to prove libel if the case involves a private person

It is much easier to prove libel if the case involves a private person

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It is much easier to prove libel if the case involves a private person. The plaintiff usually needs to show that the defendant was "at fault" in publishing the false defamatory statement. If the plaintiff is a public figure or public official, he or she will have to meet a much higher burden of proof on the fault issue -- that is, the public figure will have to show that the writer acted with reckless disregard for the truth. He or she knew it was false and wrote or printed it anyway. This higher burden of proof of fault imposed on public figures and public officials is justified by the U.S. Supreme Court under the First Amendment because public figures are often a part of public discussion concerning public issues and are part of the definition of freedom of speech and the press. The argument for a higher standard for a public person is a result of the concern to protect the freedom of the press. The media is responsible for providing information that enables citizens to
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Unformatted text preview: make informed choices in a democracy. If public officials are able to sue every time the media makes a mistake then there will be a chilling effect on journalist attempts to do investigative reports or write about corruption in office. It is also recognized that public figures will have access to the media and will have an opportunity to set the record straight. In the 1980s there were several famous cases involving libel of public figures. General William Westmoreland sued CBS News for a documentary that stated that during the Vietnam War, when he was military commander, he lied to President Johnson about the body counts in an effort to show that the US was winning the war. Westmoreland’s lawyers were able to show that there was bias, unfairness, and information left out of the report but the Supreme Court said it did not constitute malice....
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This note was uploaded on 11/14/2011 for the course POS POS2041 taught by Professor Dr.feinman during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.

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