I. A basic knowledge of what constitutes defamation in Hong Kong

Any person who publishes (*note) defamatory matter regarding another person or an organisation in writing or by word of mouth or by conduct may be liable for defamation. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of defamation. They are: Libel, which is the publication of defamatory matter in writing or in some other permanent form, and Slander, which is the publication of defamatory matter by word of mouth or in some transient (temporary) form.

(*Note: Under the law of defamation, the meaning of word the "publish" is not confined in printing and distribution of books/newspapers/magazines. It generally means "to make known to at least one other person or the public by any means". More explanations can be found in section III – conveying defamatory matter to others.)

The essential elements of defamation are listed below:

  1. the matter under dispute has a defamatory meaning;
  2. the defamatory matter is conveyed or communicated to a third party; and
  3. the defamatory matter refers to a particular person (or company).

The above elements of defamation will be elaborated in the other sections of this topic.

  1. Is defamation by word of month normally considered to be "slander"? Why do we need to distinguish slander from libel?
  2. Which court in Hong Kong hears defamation cases? Are the verdicts of such cases made by the court judge or the jury?
  3. If I am the plaintiff or the defendant in a defamation lawsuit but I do not have the money to hire a lawyer, can I get some free legal assistance from the Government?
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