High Risks For Publishers With New Public Interest Defence

The embedding of the public interest defence to defamation has raised the bar for publishers, Chapman Tripp says.

The public interest defence differs from the Lange qualified privilege defence, which it replaces, in two key ways:

  • it shifts the burden of proof from the complainant to the publisher, and
  • it requires the publisher to prove not only that there was a public interest in the information being published but that the manner of the communication was responsible.

“This new defence may take a while to bed in creating some uncertainty for publishers about exactly when the defence will be established. It may also potentially make defamation actions more difficult for publishers to defend where they have not maintained a full documentation trail of the efforts made to substantiate all aspects of the story”, Chapman Tripp partner Justin Graham said.

Other developments in the defamation law area identified in the firm’s Media Law in New Zealand – insights for 2019publication, released today, were:

  • early indications of a rising disinclination by New Zealand courts to strike out defamation claims where the defamation was to a small audience and the harm created was minimal, and
  • an emerging view that a finding of defamation is the main remedy to vindicate the plaintiff’s reputation, rather than financial compensation.

“We also look ahead to the report back of the Privacy Bill and to the implications for New Zealand companies of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation”, Graham added.

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