Fair Comment on a Matter Of Public Interest
Fair comment applies to instances of alleged defamation made in the media. To defend against a libellous or slanderous claim of defamation, the defendant may argue that the impugned statements were “fair comment on a matter of public interest.”
four things Must be established in order to raise this defence successfully:
- 1. The words complained of are recognized by the ordinary reader as a comment, although the comment may consist of, or include inferences from, facts
- 2. the comment is based on true facts set out in the article or clearly indicated therein
- 3. the comment is on a matter of public interest
- 4. the comment is one which a person could honestly make on the facts proved, and as some authorities indicate must, at least where dishonourable motives are imputed, be fair in the sense that a fair minded person could believe it.
The main thrust of this defence rests on the defendant's ability to establish that the statement was a fair opinion in that a reasonable person could draw similar inferences from the same set of facts.
Even if one manages to establish each of the four categories of this defence, it will fail if the complaining individual can prove that the person making the statement was motivated by malice or an intent to cause damage.