CJFE Welcomes Supreme Court's Decision in Defamation Case as an Important Victory for Free Expression



    TORONTO, June 27 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
welcomes today's positive decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case
of WIC Radio and Mair vs. Simpson as an another step forward in Canadian
defamation law.
    Radio journalist Rafe Mair and Vancouver radio station CKNW were sued
about an editorial critical of Kari Simpson, an anti-gay lifestyle activist.
Mair's lawyer successfully raised the defence of fair comment at trial - this
defence protects the freedom to express opinions, even harsh ones. However,
the BC Court of Appeal reversed this decision. The Supreme Court of Canada
granted leave to Mair and CKNW to appeal further. The case is the first
opportunity that Court has had to consider the defence of fair comment since
1979 and since the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    CJFE joined a media coalition, represented by lawyer, Brian MacLeod
Rogers, to intervene on this important appeal. Other members of the coalition
included the Canadian Newspaper Association, Ad IDEM/Canadian Media Lawyers
Association, British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, RTNDA Canada/The
Association of Electronic Journalists, Canadian Publishers' Council, Magazines
Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists.
    Today's decision, reversing the Court of Appeal and restoring the
decision at trial, clarifies and strengthens the defence of fair comment.
    "The Courts decision today is an important advance in the law of
defamation and an important victory for journalists and others who value free
expression in our society today," said Philip Tunley, Vice President of CJFE,
who is himself a lawyer at Stockwoods, LLP specializing in media and
defamation law.
    It is rare that the Supreme Court of Canada ever hears a common law libel
case. So this is an exciting sign that Canada is at last addressing a gap in
defamation legislation that has been both unclear and an obstacle to
journalists commenting on cases of public interest.
    CJFE is encouraged that this latest decision supports legal trends in
defamation law including the recent Cusson v. Quan which upheld a new defence
of "public interest responsible journalism" ("PIRJ"). This defence protects
statements of fact, as well as opinion, even when evidence isn't available to
prove them true in court. This case will soon be heard by the Supreme Court of
Canada, and CJFE will also be joining a media coalition to intervene on this
case.
    We hope that the Mair v Simpson decision will give renewed protection to
journalists in their work and will both clarify and strengthen libel law.

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more
than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who
work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and
around the world. CJFE has a history of work on cases pertaining to media law
and freedom of expression.





For further information:

For further information: CJFE Manager, Julie Payne, at (416) 515-9622 x.
226


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