Criminal Defamation

Criminal Defamation

 Is
it a crime to defame someone?

Before 2009 it was uncertain whether the crime existed in our law. In the case of Hoho v The State
the Supreme Court of Appeal held that
the crime had not ceased to exist because of disuse, that there were no good reasons why it should not still exist,
and that its existence was not incompatible with the provisions of the Constitution.
Criminal defamation covers both defamation in writing (libel) and verbal defamation (slander).
The court in Hoho
expressly held that violations of a person’s reputation are criminal even if the degree of violation is not serious.
If
it is a crime, how willing are the police to prosecute? Prosecutions for this crime are
rare,
even though people are defamed every
day
. No-one one has been convicted of this crime for decades. As the authorities have to deal with more serious crimes, it’s unlikely that an offender will be charged
criminally. If this were not the case, former minister Manuel would have also sought
criminal prosecution against EFF leader, Julius Malema, instead of just suing
him for defaming his good name and reputation.
The
court defined Criminal defamation
as the unlawful and intentional
publication of matter concerning another which tends to injure his
reputation.
The elements of the crime are the following:
·        
the publication of a defamatory allegation concerning another
The case law suggests that words are defamatoryif they tend to expose a person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or if they tend to diminish the esteem in which the person to whom they refer is held by others”.  A person’s good name or reputation can be harmed only if the
conduct or words complained of come to the notice of someone other than that person,
through publication of the offending words.
·        
unlawfully
The person accused of criminal defamation can
raise the same defences
available to a defendant in a civil defamation action, namely
a) that it is the truth and that, in addition, it is for the public benefit that it be made known;
(b) that it amounts to fair comment, or (c) that the communication is privileged.
·        
intentionally
X must intend to harm Ys reputation by the unlawful publication of defamatory matter concerning him and that he must intend the allegation to refer to Y (and not to somebody else).

Leave a reply

Copyright © 2020 Bregman Moodley Attorneys | Designed By Right Click Media | Privacy Policy | Tel: +27 (0)11 646-0335 | E-mail: info@bmalaw.co.za
COVID-19 Update