On the grounds of public policy and in order to preserve and protect the cherished right of freedom of speech, certain statements which may be defamatory are protected by law. The public interest in free speech is allowed to override the private right of interest of a person whose reputation has been injured
Define the term “defamation” and indicate the forms which defamation can take
• Defamation is the publication of a statement, which reflects on a person’s reputation and tends to lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally, and tend to make them shun or avoid him.
• It has also been defined as a statement calculated to injure the reputation of another person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule.
• This tort protects a person’s reputation from unlawful interference. Every person has a reputation.
• Defamation is either; libel or slander.
o Libel; this is a defamatory representation in some permanent form for example publication in a newspaper, pictorial illustration, sign. Libel is actionable per se i.e.
the plaintiff need not prove loss or damage. It is both crime and a tort.
o Slander; this is defamation by spoken word or gestures. It is transient or temporalin character. It is a mere tort. It is generally not actionable per se. Loss or damage must be proved. However, slander is actionable per se in the following circumstances:
– Imputation of crime; plaintiff has committed a criminal offence.
– Imputation of disease. To impute that one is suffering from an infectious disease.
– Imputation of unchastity. To impute that a woman is unchaste or has committed adultery.
– Imputation of unfitness or incompetence;