Thursday, December 31, 2009

Public Interest Responsible Journalism May Lead to Greater Freedom of Speech

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that journalists who act responsibly in reporting stories that are in the public interest will be protected in libel lawsuits. The Globe and Mail reports that the media were "exultant" about the rulings. Bloggers and others publishing on the Internet will also be protected.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin handed down the 9-0 decisions, saying that Canada needs to keep in step with other Western democracies who have provided greater protection to the media and arguing that society is best served by fearless commentary and investigative journalism.
Freewheeling debate on matters of public interest is to be encouraged and the vital role of the communications media in providing a vehicle for such debate is explicitly recognized.

New trials have been ordered for the Toronto Star (Grant v. Torstar Corp.)which exposed a questionable land deal and the Ottawa Citizen (Cusson v. Quan) which raised questions about the conduct of a police officer who helped search for survivors after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York.

In the past, the burden of proof in a liable case fell to the defendant, making it difficult for the media to defend its position.

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