Dear Ann Kirkpatrick,
Thank you so much for giving me encouragement when I talked to you at DOOR’s picnic about the need for bringing a stronger libel law to deal with the abstractions we have to deal with in the media.
We have inherited these problems as the result of the Supreme Court ruling on March 9, 1964, in the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, case, in which the court held that a public official suing for defamation must prove that the statement in question was made with “actual malice”, which in this context refers to knowledge or reckless lack of investigation, rather than the ordinary meaning of malicious intent.
The rule that somebody alleging defamation should have to prove untruth , rather than that the defendant should have to prove the truth of a statement stood as a departure from the previous common law.
In England, the development was specifically rejected in Derbishire County Council v.Times Newspapers Ltd and was also rejected in Canada in Hill v.Church of Scientology of Toronto,and more recently in Grant v. Torstar Corp. However, in Australia, the outcome of the case was followed in Theophanous v.the Herald & Weekly Times Ltd.
We have been affected by the flood of misinformation and lies which has been evident since the Supreme Court placed the extremely high burden of proof on the plaintiff, and the difficulty in proving essentially what is inside a person’s head. Such cases — when they involve public figures — rarely prevail.
It would be great help if you can advise what would be the legal procedure for repealing the above ruling or passing laws to make libel against political figures,and media more amenable to redress in court.
I look forward hearing from you.
Kindest regards, A. Foroughizadeh