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ONTARIO COURT AFFIRMS MEDIA'S RIGHT TO PUBLISH IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

Ontario's Court of Appeal has given the media the freedom to publish information deemed in the public interest, a major victory for freedom of expression in Canada, says Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE).

In a unanimous decision on 13 November, a three-judge panel said news media carrying out responsible journalism in the public interest should be a defence against libel and slander suits.

"If a news organisation can show it made every attempt to be fair and to confirm that the contents of a story are true, it has a defence to a defamation lawsuit, even if it got some of its facts wrong," the panel said. Traditional defamation law favours the protection of a person's reputation over freer and more open debate of public issues.

"The decision will decrease the chilling effect of potential libel suits on reporters and editors," says CJFE. "Editors and reporters will now have more freedom to go after stories of public interest that they were frightened to touch before."

The decision was based on a test case involving an Ontario police officer Danno Cusson who had sued the daily paper "The Ottawa Citizen" for defamation after they published an article in 2001 that suggested he had acted improperly.

CJFE believes the Ontario decision will benefit all Canadians, and hopes it will be followed in every jurisdiction across Canada. The ruling brings Ontario's media in line with similar approaches followed in the United States, England, South Africa and Australia.

Visit these links:
- CJFE: http://tinyurl.com/2q8may
- "Toronto Star": http://tinyurl.com/32wkwc
(20 November 2007)

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