Qualified privilege in reports
The defence of qualified privilege … is still in the process of development: Seaga v. Harper (Jamaica)  UKPC 9, in which it was said that the decision in Reynolds v. Times Newspapers Ltd and Others  UKHL 45;  4 All ER 609 ‘was based … on a "liberalising intention". It was intended to give, and in their Lordships' view (had) given, a wider ambit of qualified privilege to certain types of communication to the public in general than would have been afforded by the traditional rules of law.’ In particular, they saw ‘no valid reason why it should not extend to publications made by any person who publishes material of public interest in any medium, so long as the conditions framed by Lord Nicholls as being applicable to "responsible journalism" are satisfied.’ Those criteria were: (1) The seriousness of the allegation. The more serious the charge, the more the public is misinformed and the individual harmed, if the allegation is not true. (2) The nature of the information, and the extent to which the subject matter is a matter of public concern. (3) The source of the information. Some informants have no direct knowledge of the events. Some have their own axes to grind, or are being paid for their stories. (4) The steps taken to verify the information. (5) The status of the information. The allegation may have already been the subject of an investigation which commands respect. (6) The urgency of the matter. News is often a perishable commodity. (7) Whether comment was sought from the plaintiff. He may have information others do not possess or have not disclosed. An approach to the plaintiff will not always be necessary. (8) Whether the article contained the gist of the plaintiff's side of the story. (9) The tone of the article. A newspaper can raise queries or call for an investigation. It need not adopt allegations as statements of fact. (10) The circumstances of the publication, including the timing.
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