Defamation and libel laws protect citizens against the spreading of false information, either written or spoken, which might damage one’s reputation or dignity.
Free expression advocates in this area have two major goals. First, that defamation and libel laws should be civil rather than criminal – Canada, for instance, still has criminal libel laws that could lead to jail sentences. And, second, that damage to reputations must be weighed against the consequences of limiting the Charter right to free speech. In 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada created the defence of responsible communication on matters of public interest, which provides journalists with qualified immunity if they act professionally even if they report incorrect information that might otherwise be considered defamatory or libelous.
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