Supreme Court Decision Strengthens Press Freedom - Newspapers Laud Ruling in Landmark "Fair Comment" Case



    OTTAWA, June 27 /CNW Telbec/ - In its first decision concerning the libel
defence of "fair comment" in nearly 30 years, the Supreme Court of Canada has
come down strongly in support of free expression by upholding the dismissal of
a lawsuit against Rafe Mair, a B.C. talk-show host known for strong opinions
on controversial subjects.
    Mair and his employer, WIC Communications, had been sued over an on-air
editorial broadcast in 1999 in which he voiced strong criticism of a fervent
opponent of teaching about homosexuality and gay lifestyles to schoolchildren.
    The trial judge accepted the "fair comment" defence and dismissed the
action, however this decision was overturned on appeal and the case went to
the Supreme Court last December. The Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) led
a coalition of eight media groups that intervened in the case.
    In its ruling today, the Supreme Court wrote that while Mair's editorial
was "defamatory (...) the trial judge was correct to allow the defence of fair
comment," and that it was important that robust public debate not be chilled
by the threat of libel suits.
    "This is a significant victory, at a time when freedom of expression is
increasingly under attack," said David Gollob, speaking on behalf of the CNA.
Mr. Gollob noted that the Court underscored one of the essential functions of
media as a vital platform for the exchange of opinions in a free and
democratic society.
    "This decision has cleared up what had become an all too murky area of
the law," said Brian Macleod Rogers, counsel to the media coalition and a
prominent media lawyer. "Nothing can be more important than to protect
democratic debate through expression of opinion that is made without fear of
legal reprisal."




For further information:

For further information: David Gollob, Senior Vice President, Policy and
Communications, Canadian Newspaper Association, Association canadienne des
journaux, (613) 745-3810 (office), (613) 301-6162 (cell), dgollob@cna-acj.ca;
www.cna-acj.ca

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