Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Neutral Reportage Privilege in England and Wales

Jason John Bosland, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales; University of Melbourne, Centre for Media and Communications Law, has published Republication of Defamation under the Doctrine of Reportage - The Evolution of Common Law Qualified Privilege in England and Wales, forthcoming in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. 

This paper examines the ‘doctrine of reportage’ - a particular application of the ‘Reynolds’ qualified privilege defence to defamation recognised by the House of Lords in Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd. The doctrine of reportage provides protection for the neutral reporting (republication) of defamatory allegations made by others in the context of a dispute or controversy of public interest. It is argued in this paper, however, that this emerging defence is doctrinally distinct from the privilege recognised in Reynolds and that its jurisprudential basis needs to be reconsidered. Moreover, the development of the defence under the guise of Reynolds privilege has led to confusion, both by courts and by commentators, as to its potential breadth. It is suggested that the public interest justifications underpinning the reportage defence need to be explicitly re-examined by the courts in order to define its proper scope. Following an examination of these public interest justifications, it is argued that a broad interpretation of the defence should be rejected.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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