All About Libel in Journalism

Defamation Demand Letters All About Libel in Journalism

Understanding Libel in Journalism

Libel defamation lawsuits are pretty common in journalism since it involves writing articles, news, or making news about other people and their lives. Libel charges can be filed when someone makes a false defamatory statement for publication and that statement is identified in print.

In this article, we will be explaining what libel involves in journalism, what are the elements of a libel case, and how you can first create a cease and desist letter easily with DoNotPay!

What Is Libel in Journalism?

Libel in journalism can be defined as the dissemination of false information in writing, photographs, or any other medium that exposes a person to public hostility, shame, dishonor, ridicule or induces an ill opinion of a person in the eyes of the public. News stories that imply crime, fraud, immoral and dishonorable behavior, or stories that slander the person professionally, causing either personal or business-wise financial loss, are the most common causes of libel actions.

For example, a libel case can be brought against someone for calling a person:

  • Murderer
  • Child Molester
  • Fraud
  • Liar
  • Alcoholic
  • Drug Addict

Thus, a libel claim might arise from any allegation that a member of society has broken basic ethical standards.

The Elements of a Libel Case

In order to prove libel, you need to be able to prove the following elements:

  • The statement must be defamatory, meaning that it is damaging to your reputation.
  • The statement has to be published in a news story, website, newspaper, or in some writing.
  • The statement has to be seen by other parties than you and the defendant. 
  • You should be able to prove that the statement is false information.
  • If you are a public figure, you need to demonstrate that the statement was written with malicious intent.
  • You should be somehow damaged by the defamatory statement.

The Defenses in a Libel Case in Journalism

Defense ArgumentsExplained
TruthIf the defendant can prove that the defamatory statement was true, then you would have no case against the defendant.
Fair CommentThe press can review the performance of any public performer, such as politician, athlete, or actor. You can however be sued if you mention something defamatory about the public performer’s personal life. You can call someone a bad actor, but you cannot call them a drug addict (if they aren’t one).

  • “The publication of defamatory matter that consists of comment and opinion, as distinguished from fact, with reference to matters of public interest and concern, provided they do so fairly and with an honest purpose, is not libelous, however severe in their terms unless they are written maliciously” (Associated Press Style and Libel Guide 251).
PrivilegeLibelous utterances made during government procedures or in public documents are covered by privilege. Even if the statements made in these procedures are defamatory, all public proceedings, court sessions, and public records are privileged. They must, however, be quoted in context and not as an out-of-context damaging statement.
MaliciousMalicious means that the person or journalist who wrote the publication or the news knew that the information he wrote was false and did it anyway to damage the reputation of the other party.

The Right to Privacy in Journalism

There are some elements of the right to privacy that you might need to know before filing a libel lawsuit:

  1. If a person participates in a news event, either willingly or unwillingly, he or she gives up some of the privacy rights. Also, reporters or journalists can write easily about a person, who is somehow involved in an actual public interest matter. For example, if someone has been involved with a crime that has become a public concern, journalists can write safely about them.
  2. An article or a photograph that dredges out the unpleasant aspects of a person’s history and has no present news value may be considered libelous.
  3. If you are a public figure and someone criticizes your job performance, ethics, it is not enough to prove libel. You also have to prove malicious intention. But if you are a private individual, you should just simply demonstrate libel, not malicious intent. So, winning a libel action for private individuals is much easier than it is for a public figure. 

Writing a Cease and Desist Letter With DoNotPay! 

You might be wondering about your legal options if you believe that you have a valid libel claim against a journalist. Of course, you can file a lawsuit. However, filing a lawsuit will be both costly and time-consuming. So your first course of action should be to write a cease and desist letter to the other party, which will demonstrate to them your intention of suing. You will need a strongly worded cease and desist letter and DoNotPay is here to help you! 

All you need to do is:

1. Look for the Defamation Demand Letters service on DoNotPay’s website.

2. Tell us whether it was slander or libel, what the defamatory statement was, and how it was false as well as your damages resulting from the statement.

Done! After you complete these simple two steps, based on your state’s defamation laws, DoNotPay will write a customized and detailed cease and desist letter for you to serve to the journalist who wrote about you.

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