Newspapers Lose Battle but Win War in Landmark Defamation Case

Intervention by CNA, Globe and Mail, and Canadian Media Lawyers Association  Helps Set New Benchmark

Toronto, ON – (Nov. 14, 2007) The Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) hails yesterday’s ruling by a panel of Ontario judges that a “public interest responsible journalism defence” should be accepted in law, a move that will permit much greater scope for news reporting that carries a risk of litigation for defamation.

However, despite this important victory for Canadian news media, in the same ruling the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to overturn a defamation award against The Ottawa Citizen, on the grounds that the “responsible journalism” defence had not been litigated in the lower court when the defamation case was originally heard. The case had been brought by an OPP constable who, on his own initiative, went to New York City to participate in 9/11 search and rescue operations.

“This is akin to losing a key battle, but winning the war on principle,” said CNA President and CEO Anne Kothawala, who described the ruling as “important and precedent-setting.” The CNA, the Globe and Mail and the Canadian Media Lawyers Association intervened as a media coalition in the appeal, advocating that the “public interest responsible journalism” defence be accepted in Canadian law.

“The old law unduly chilled freedom of expression,” Ms. Kothawala said. “Responsible journalism is the point at which a fair balance is held between freedom of expression and protection of the reputation of individuals. The old law tilted far too far in favour of protecting reputation, even in the face of entirely responsible journalism in the public interest. A far more reasonable balance has now been achieved.”

The full text of the ruling is posted below in PDF format.


For more information, contact:
David Gollob
Canadian Newspaper Association
Cell: 613-301-6162