WHAT IS A DEFAMATORY STATEMENT
This article will treat the first question that comes in view whenever the issue of defamation arises. This question is the topic that I am about to discuss in this article. I will try as much as possible to explain this question the very best that I can, at least to give us a clear picture of what a statement of defamation is.
A defamatory statement is a sham statement of fact that exposes a person to abhorrence, ridicule, or disdain, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his company or trade. In the view of this explanation, the first thing to note is that the statement must be a false statement and the then, therefore, exposes the plaintiff to injuries, damages and other kinds of stuff that may affect his person, status and business. Then, we can call such a statement of defamation
Not all statements are defamatory, what do I mean?
Note this, statements that are simply offensive are not defamatory (e.g., a statement that Okoro smells badly would not be satisfactory (and would likely be an opinion nevertheless)). This is because the word ” smells badly” however is an offensive statement but cannot or may not bring injury or damages to the person or reputation of a person (my thoughts though). That is why courts generally examine the full context of a statement’s publication when making this determination. Full context in the sense that what lead to the statement and what happened after the statement or a publication of the statement was made.
In most recent times, the court has difficulties is ascertaining that a declaration is defamatory. But let me tells us something because a statement must be bogus to be defamatory, a statement of opinion cannot form the basis of a denouncement claim because it cannot be proven true or false. That is to say that when a statement of opinion comes in place, the court sometimes does not regard it whole fully as a defamatory statement unless it is been proved beyond levelheaded doubt that the statement is true or false. For example, the statement that Okoro is a “furious jerk”, is clearly a statement of opinion because it cannot be proven to be true or false. Again, courts will look at the context of the statement as well as its substance to determine whether it is opinion or a factual statement. It is only when it is a factual assertion that it can be said to be a defame statement but the case of when it is a mere opinion, it can be disregarded as a mere opinion unless like I said to be proven to be a factual assertion.
Let us also note that not everybody can bring an action for denigration, I will use an example to example to explain this. In rare cases, a plaintiff can be “libel-proof”, meaning he or she has a reputation so flawed that it couldn’t be brought any lower, even by the publication of false statements of fact. Now a person in this category has no status or person to protect as a result of the self-tarnished image he/she already has. An example is if Okoro(a well know fraudster) brings an action for defamation saying the the defendant made a statement that he is a fraudster, he will lose because he has tarnished his image and has nothing again to protect. Then another category of person that cannot get action for defamation is a dead person. A dead person has no legally-protected repute and cannot be defamed. He is deceased and there is no reputation that he is protecting anymore.
I will like to end with this note, when you have understood the question ‘what is a defamatory statement‘ the most important thing to note is that that truth is a supreme defense to defamation, together with per se defamation. If the declaration is true, it can’t be derogatory. Once the defendant can prove beyond reasonable doubt that such statement is true, the action against him/her will fail.
In my next article, I will write on the topic ‘ defense for defamation’, so wait for it. Thanks.