Sunday, March 18, 2007

Truth no longer libel defense?

A recent Iowa Supreme Court decision could mean that newspapers can be sued for "defamation by implication" even if the comments in question are true, the Associated Press reports.

Such a change could result in the end of provable truth as the "ultimate defense" to a libel charge, and by extension discourage journalism that some subjects of stories find objectionable.

The court on March 9 ordered a trial on one count of a lawsuit filed by former freelance contributor Todd Stevens against the Ames Tribune, ruling that statements the newspaper made about the columnist could be considered defamatory. Most striking, however, the court's decision said both private and public figures could be defamed if true statements are presented in a manner that carries false implications.