Megalomedia: Libel free since 2003

Granted, the site didn’t exist until 2005, but 2003 rhymed better. But wow, let’s talk libel.

As I’ve explained on this site before, Canada has some pretty strict rules on libel. You can not link someone to a crime, no matter what the police or anyone else says. You can report that someone has been charged with something, and you can report the details of a police investigation, but you can’t link the two yourself. It seems silly, as any logical person would probably make the connection, but in Canadian law, that’s their problem, not yours.

In the interest of not libeling the poor man myself, I will simply link to the stories. I have no idea where that puts me legally, but I’m pretty sure nobody’s coming after me.

Globe and Mail.
They libel him right in the lead. See if you can spot it.

National Post
This one isn’t as cut and dry, but there’s some serious inneundo going on there.

It’s right in the headline.

I’m not going to profess to know everything about media law, I’ll leave that to TKOB in the comments section, but I know these reports are irresponsible. The guy has not been convicted. In the eyes of the Canadian legal system he is innocent. And in the eyes of Canadian libel law, these media reports, specifically the Globe and CBC, are libelous.

Canada needs a good, high-profile libel suit to take the media down a few pegs. The problem is that the press has created a really powerful environment wherein any attack on a journalist is an attack on the freedom of the press. People don’t want to take them on, and I can’t really blame them. But the situation is getting out of hand.

Why use 500 words when 200 will almost suffice?
So the Globe ran an interesting little piece today, have a look-see here. It left me with a few questions, namely:

1) What sort of information, exactly?
2) Are Canadians returning the favour?
3) Why was this reported on by the U.S.-based Associated Press?
4) Why didn’t a single Canadian outlet bother assigning a reporter to this?

Seriously, they say that names will be provided. Will there be any context, or will this lead to more cases of mistaken identity that ground flights or prevent travellers from flying? What system does Canada have in place anyway? Last I heard the whole thing was in a bit of a flux.

I guess the Globe deserves some credit for reporting it at all, but I really want to know more. And I don’t think I’m alone. Given the concerns about information-sharing agreements these days, Canadians deserve a bit more context.

And as a fun little kicker. . .
I have to say that I read this and nearly shit my pants. Pay special attention to the headline and paragraph seven (as though I had to point that out). Apparently the Toronto Sun’s editorial page is now reserved for transcripts from chat rooms. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s hard-hitting ANY 16/F WANNA CHAT??? expose.


  1. i don’t wanna be a nag, but… some of your links — specifically, the last two in this post — aren’t working, joe.

    i mean, i need some context for your comments, am i right? 🙂

    i was also shocked that the Toronto Star story on Manitouwadge (thanks again for pointing it out) didn’t make it into today’s post. obviously, something happened to your ‘newsworthy’ spidey sense when you neglected to give such a prominent and important piece of news the attention it deserves.

  2. that’s weird man, I just checked them all and they work fine for me.

    And the Star requires a subscription to access their stuff, that’s why I didn’t discuss the Wadge. Yea. That’s it.

  3. that IS weird, ’cause those links still don’t work for me. oh well, must be because i’m an English major or something. :O

  4. Pfff, a poor imitation of chat, clearly it would have been “ZMOG!! Teh Gov pawnzors joo”

    Or some such dealie…

    My unimpressed reaction to the Sun’s Editorial:
    a/s/l plzkthx.

  5. Okay, Joe. I was busy earlier, so I couldn’t get into it, but I’ve checked those libel links again, and I can’t see ANY case of libel that would stand up in court.

    “Edmonton man charged in death of pregnant wife” is not libel. It is fact, if indeed he was charged with the murder, which he was. Rumour of crime is never a story, but he was actually charged with the murder.

    From the Canadian Criminal Code

    311. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel where he proves that the publication of the defamatory matter in the manner in which it was published was for the public benefit at the time when it was published and that the matter itself was true.

    R.S., c. C-34, s. 275.

    Either I’m wrong, or you’re confused, but I seriously don’t see how this is libel, and I can’t find anything to back up the claim that you can’t report that someone was charged with something.

    P.S. Joe Boughner eats babies.

  6. “Edmonton man charged in death of wife” is indeed libel, ryan. “Edmonton man charged with second-degree murder” is not. You MUST (and I seriously mean MUST) have the legal name of the charge. You can say: “Police found the body of a missing pregnant woman. Her husband was charged with second-degree murder.” You see how I make sure I don’t connect the two? YOU do when you read it, but all I’M saying is, they found her body; he got charged with murder. I didn’t say HER murder, I just said murder. You can’t say he was charged in CONNECTION with her murder or IN HER death or anything like that. THAT is libel.

    The Globe and Mail story is libelous. The CBC story is libelous. The National Post did a GENIUS job of skirting around the libel, though sometimes they get into a bit of a gray area. They never actually connect him to her death, but they come awful close…

    Where’s TKOB/Media Law Genius when you need him?

  7. Phronetic: They weren’t reporting charges. They said “charged in her death.” There is an important difference. “Charged in her death” connects him to a specific crime.

    “Charged with second-degree murder” does not.

    Joe is right (that NEVER happens…)

  8. TKOB was at work, where Net access is monitored.

    TSS is right. Ryan, criminal libel does not equal a violation of the Ontario something defamation act – civil libel, or defamation in a permnent format. Saying someone is charged in someone else’s death links them to it and defames them. Reporting facts and letting readers make the leap is not.

    Although what these places REALLY need is some good convictions for sub judice contempt of court, which IS a criminal offence. That’d be fun.

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