Media defamation – what can you do about it?

Even with the rise of blogs, Twitter and Facebook, the traditional mainstream media still dominates peoples’ news consumption. Being defamed by a national newspaper or television programme can be extremely damaging, both to private individuals and public figures.

However, reputation matters to the media as well. They do not want to become known for spreading lies and gossip. Often, if they are mistaken, they will quickly settle, rather than endure the adverse publicity.

Counterintuitively, taking on these organisations can be easier than pursuing smaller targets.

Learn more about this area of law on our defamation pages.

Starting your case

Defamation is one of the most complicated and nuanced areas of law. At present it is one of the few remaining cases in which a civil trial will have a jury. Even more the usual, it is important to obtain specialist advice from an expert solicitor.

First of all, the solicitor will assess your case. For it to be successful the statement complained of must be false and must have been damaging. Truth is a complete defence to defamation and if there was no damage, there can be no compensation.

They will also determine if other defences are available, such as the publication being in the public interest. Although strictly speaking it is for the media to prove that what they said was true, your case will be helped if you can produce proof that they spoke falsely.

Claiming compensation

Your solicitor will advise you how much compensation you may be entitled to. In the rare event that the case goes to trial, compensation may be determined by the jury. This means it is more difficult to predict than in other areas of law.

Defamation cases involving media organisations rarely come to trial. Your solicitor will write to them explaining that they have published a defamatory statement and requesting a retraction, apology and compensation.

Only in the event that the media organisation refuses to settle, will the courts become involved.

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