Defamation Act, 1957
DEFAMATION ACT, 1957
The Defamation Act was formulated by the government to protect the interest, reputation and image of a person or organisation from being damaged or harmed as the result of inaccurate writings. However, the law is not meant to deny the freedom of speech by the people. The people are still free to express themselves provided that they do not harm other people by making defamatory statements. Defamation is defined as an allegation that may lower the standing of a person in the eyes of the general public and cause the person to be hated, insulted or ridiculed. The defamation may affect his reputation in his trade, business or profession. An allegation or publication has defamatory elements if it:
- Harms or destroys the reputation of a person.
- Causes the person to be hated, ridiculed or considered a fool by society.
- As a result, his reputation in this trade, business or profession will be affected.
An offence which is deemed defamatory can be classified into two, i.e. libel and slander. Libel is any defamatory statement expressed in a permanent form such as pictures, writings, symbols and any printed materials. Slander is defamation by spoken words or gestures. The effect of libel is considered heavier as it is in a permanent form. Writings in a book or magazine or newspaper will remain for a long time and the reputation of the person defamed will be affected as long the writings exist.
However, in the context of the law of defamation, something can be deemed defamatory if it contains the following three elements:
- The words must be defamatory in nature.
- The words must refer to the person defamed.
- The words must be communicated to a third party or other person.
To prove that a person has been defamed, evidence must be submitted to the court that a specific publication contains defamation and the defamation is aimed at him. In addition, he must prove that the publication has been circulated to other people. In this context, defamation is an allegation that is not true. If the accused can prove to the court that what he has written has actually happened or is not defamation, then he can be acquitted. Apart from settlement in court, a defamation case is normally settled amicably outside the court. Section 7 (1) of the Defamation Act states that “A person who has published words alleged to be defamatory of another person may, if he claims that the words were published by him innocently in relation to that other person, make an offer of amends”. However, it is up to the party defamed to accept the offer of amends.