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If the future of newspapers includes online and transnational platforms, the influence of defamation law on journalism deserves close investigation. A key concern for international publishers remains being sued in defamation in the United Kingdom or in other countries following its legal tradition. However, UK law has developed in recent years so that it now protects “responsible journalism” and many other commonwealth countries have seen similar developments. These changes offer real potential to support wider public debate, but they also contain challenges for law to understand and evaluate journalistic practices. This paper draws on a three-year study of news production and defamation law in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. It explains the difficult position facing journalism under traditional defamation law, outlines the key legal developments that change that law, and considers how journalists and other media staff perceive defamation law within their everyday practice.
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Keywords: defamation; journalism; law; news production; newspapers; public debate

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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