Sunday, October 01, 2006

In libel malice is presumed generally

Our libel law seems weird.
By reading the criminal libel law, it would seem that truth has got nothing to do with libel.
The law says: Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown.
It would seem that even if you speak the truth, your defamatory statement is presumed malicious.
Why is a defamatory imputation presumed malicious?
The reason is that our law is very protective of one's private reputation.
Honor is a man's prized possession, it is said. The law needs to protect it.
If one person defames, or speaks ill of another, like calling another a robber, killer, womanizer, etc., it is presumed malicious.
The reason according to our Supreme Court, is because of the constitutional guarantee that presumes a person innocent until proven otherwise.
Every person is presumed to be innocent.
Therefore, if one accuses another of being a thief, it should be presumed malicious because the person accused of being a thief is still innocent, until and unless he is really convicted in court of being a thief.
Until that happens, a person is innocent and therefore, no one can go around accusing him of being a thief.
If an accuser does that, he must be the one to prove, not only the truth (that the person he defames is a thief), but also his good intentions of making the accusation.
But this rule, that every defamatory imputaiton is presumed malicious-- does not apply to the press and some ranking government men in specific situations.
The law itself makes this exception. The press therefore has this legal privilege.
The rule does not apply if the press makes a fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks of government proceedings, or official acts of public officials. This is called "privileged communication."
The rule also does not apply if a journalist or any person will make a fair comment on matters of public interest, like those comments affect the state of affairs of government. This is called the doctrine of fair comment.
The rule also does not apply in any private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal moral or social duty.
This third exception, does not concern journalists because the communication involved is private.
An example of the third privilege is when a company supervisor makes an inter-office memorandum that reports an employee of committing anomalies in the company.
These privileges are called "privileged communication"
The communication is privileged because it is outside the general rule that every defamatory imputation is presumed malicious.

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