A REVIEW of the defamation law announced yesterday by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is to be welcomed but it must be orchestrated in such a way as to make real and lasting changes and to strike a fair balance between freedom of expression and protecting a citizen’s good name.
That is a difficult balance to achieve, particularly in the digital age and, with it, the emergence of ‘citizen journalism’ where often unverified and damaging information is put into the public domain, causing great distress.
Notwithstanding the fact that our current defamation legislation is barely seven years on the statute books, it still favours the rich and powerful who can use their financial muscle to bully and harass journalists.
At the same time, it fails to provide a quick, cost-effective recourse to justice for those without deep pockets who have been defamed. Awards made in Ireland are wholly out of kilter with other jurisdictions and operate to silence legitimate comment and disclosures. Freedom of expression is not just for journalists but for everyone.
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