IV. Identifying the person defamed
If you are the plaintiff (the person defamed) in a defamation case, you have to prove that:
- the defamatory statement is referring to you (the contents of the statement defame you); and
- The defendant is the author, producer, or publisher of the statement, or the medium that releases the statement.
People may think that if they do not include the name of a person they are maligning in an article, but only give a thorough description of the person (e.g. his height and weight, the places that he frequents and the things that he had done), that person would have difficulty proving that the article refers to him.
In these circumstances, the court will consider to whom the author's original intent is referring, and whether ordinary readers will think that the author is referring to that person after reading the article. If that person's friends and others can reasonably infer that the article refers to him, then the article in question will be considered to refer to that person.
- If I did not intend to refer to the plaintiff in my article, and it was a pure coincidence that the article appears to refer to him, will I still be liable for defamation?
- Would I be liable for defamation if I published defamatory words or allegations about a limited company? How about publishing defamatory words or allegations against the government?