Newspaper, Media Groups Ask Canada's Supreme Court to Accept "Public Interest Responsible Journalism" Defence in Libel Actions



    OTTAWA, Feb. 17 /CNW/ - Informed debate on matters of public interest is
essential to democracy, but over-emphasis on protection of reputation in
Canadian law and the resulting fear of libel action keep important information
from the public, a coalition of media groups led by the Canadian Newspaper
Association told the Supreme Court of Canada today.
    "Society has a broad interest in getting more information. You can't have
public debate in a vacuum," said Brian Macleod Rogers, counsel for the
coalition, one of several interveners in an appeal by the Ottawa Citizen of a
defamation verdict in a case involving a former OPP officer.
    "The problem with the approach to libel in Canadian law," Rogers added,
"is that the public is lost in the clash (...) between reputation and free
speech."
    The case centres on a libel action brought by the former OPP officer, who
claimed he was defamed in published news stories that alleged he
misrepresented himself to New York authorities in the aftermath of 9/11. While
judges at the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the defence of "public
interest responsible journalism," established by courts in Britain, should be
allowed in Canada, it did not allow the Ottawa Citizen to use it in its
appeal.
    The case shines a light on the restrictiveness of current libel law for,
among other reasons, even though the Citizen reported information provided by
police officers that was corroborated at trial, a jury found some of those
statements to be defamatory and awarded $100,000 in damages.

    About the Canadian Newspaper Association

    The Canadian Newspaper Association is the voice of Canada's daily
newspaper industry. We promote the positive reputation of newspapers as an
essential medium that benefits all Canadians, and as an effective vehicle for
advertisers. The CNA is a vigorous champion of journalistic freedom and
democratic reform and is a valued source of industry information, trends and
best practices.





For further information:

For further information: David Gollob, Senior Vice-President, Policy &
Communications, Canadian Newspaper Association, Cell: (613) 301-6162,
dgollob@cna-acj.ca

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