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    Civil Defamation

    Module 5: Defamation

    Despite widespread agreement that criminal punishment for defamation is no longer acceptable, there is nevertheless a need for some sort of remedy for those whose reputations have been unfairly harmed.

    Therefore, almost all countries have domestic laws providing protection against defamation, but these laws vary by jurisdiction.  In some countries, defamation laws are overly restrictive vis-à-vis freedom of speech, for example by limiting criticism of leaders or by providing for disproportionately harsh sanctions. Another challenge to freedom of expression is that some judges and juries elect to award disproportionately large damages in civil defamation matters.

    If a person is able to prove a civil claim for defamation, and the person responsible for the statement or publication is not able to raise a successful defence, the person who has suffered reputational harm is typically entitled to monetary compensation in the form of reasonably quantified civil damages.  While civil defamation claims may serve the intended purposes of restoring reputation or honour, they can be abused and cause a “chilling effect” on the full enjoyment and exercise of freedom of expression.