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proviso that no indecent matter shall be protected-consequently the privilege will be taken away if it be proved that the matter is blasphemous, or if it be proved that the matter is indecent. On the other hand, the clause dealing with the question under discussion is really only one proviso consisting of two terms, both of which must co-exist in order that the proviso may apply and the privilege be taken away; and should only one of them exist, the proviso fails to apply and the privilege remains. In other words, the Act does not give any new protection where two blemishes occur ; the first being that the matter is not of public concern, the second that the publication of it is not for the public benefit.

The effect of the two clauses may be presented in the following tabular form: I. “ Provided that there shall be no privilege where

(a) the matter is blasphemous, or

(b) the matter is indecent."
Therefore if either condition (a) or (b) is satisfied

there is no privilege.
II. “Provided that there shall be no privilege where-

(a) the matter is not of public concern, and
(B) the publication of it is not for the public

Therefore if condition (a) or (B) is satisfied there is

privilege (9).


(9) In considering this question, it is most important to remember that the Legislature have framed the proviso under discussion from the negative point of view; and it is submitted with great respect that this fact has not been duly appreciated by the learned writer of the following paragraph in the Law Journal for January 19th, 1889 :-“The secretary of the Libel Law Reform Committee writes to correct what he calls a mistaken impression that under the Law of Libel Amendment Act, 1888, it will be necessary to establish privilege for the publication in a newspaper of proceedings at public meetings to prove that the publication is for the public benefit. In the minds of lawyers this impression cannot be corrected by what the writer calls abstract reasoning or making public sanguine


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NOTE 2.-“ A MEETING bonâ fide AND LAWFULLY HELD FOR A LAWFUL PURPOSE, AND FOR THE FURTHERANCE OR DISCUSSION OF ANY MATTER OF PUBLIC CONCERN WHETHER THE ADMISSION THERETO BE GENERAL OR RESTRICTED.' The last words of this clause would apparently cover reports of meetings not in the widest sense public, e.g., of meetings to which admission can only be obtained by ticket, provided, of course, that the object of the meeting is lawful and for the furtherance or discussion of any matter of public concern. Probably, also, reports of meetings held at a private house of the same nature at which persons were only present by invitation would be included. The meeting must be “bonâ fide . . . . held,” i.e., it must not be held for the mere purpose of defamation

-consequently, the report of any meeting, if the jury were satisfied that it had been held for such purpose would not opinions of counsel, but only on a comparison of the words of the repealed section with the words of the section replacing them. The repealed section (44 & 45 Vict. c. 60, s. 2) enacted that'any report published in any newspaper of the proceedings of a public meeting shall be privileged if .... the publication of the matter complained of was for the public benefit.' The replacing section enacts that'a report published in any newspaper of the proceedings of a public meeting .... shall be privileged, . . . . provided that nothing in this section contained shall be deemed or construed .... to protect the publication of any matter the publication of which is not for the public benefit.' The existing enactment

says the same thing as the repealed enactment, only in more words, and it adds to the previous condition requiring the publication to be for the public benefit the further condition that it be of public concern, coupling the two together in the proviso with an 'and,' which no ingenuity can make ‘or.' The words left out in the two passages do not affect the reading of them so far as the point in question is concerned.” It will be noticed that so far from its being an assistance towards what is submitted as the true construction of the section to construe the word “and” as or (as is suggested above) it is exactly the reverse. If the word “ replaced the word “and,” the meaning of the section would, it is submitted, then be precisely what the learned writer of the above paragraph contends it is.

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be protected. Moreover, the meeting must be lawfully held," i.e., it must not be held in violation of the law, e.g., in contravention of the statute against tumultuously petitioning Parliament (q); and “for a lawful purpose,” thus it

l must not be illegal (*), or seditious (s), or held under such circumstances as will probably cause a breach of the

peace (t).


NOTE 3.—“The matter complained of must be of public concern. This means that the matter complained of must be of public, in contradistinction to private concern.




NOTE 4.-" THE PUBLICATION PUBLIC BENEFIT;' in other words, it is not enough that the report is fair and accurate, and that it is for the public benefit that reports of meetings of the same kind as this particular meeting should be published, e.g., that it is an accurate report of a political meeting—to obtain protection it must be proved that the publication of the very words complained of is for the public benefit. This imposes on every editor the duty of editing the whole paper; he must not trust to the proved accuracy of his reporter; he must himself read through the report and be careful to eliminate all blasphemous, seditious, and obscene matter (u), every unfair attack on a public man, everything defamatory of a private individual. No doubt this is almost a practical impossibility in the case of a daily paper, where the type has to be set up with the greatest possible speed; but, nevertheless, it seems to be clear law, according to the

(9) 13 Car. 2, c. 5; 1 W. & M. sess. 2, c. 2; 57 Geo. 3, c. 19,

8. 23.

(r) Rex v. Birt and others (1834), 5 C. & P. 154 ; Rex v. Fursey (1835), 6. C. & P. 81.

(8) Redford v. Birley and others (1822), 3 Stark. 103.

(t) Rex v. Hunt and others (1819), 3 B. & Ald. 566; Reg. v. Vincent (1838), 9 C. & P. 91, 109.

(u) Steele v. Brannan (1872), L. R. 7 C. P. 261: 41 L. J. M. C. 85.

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decision in Pankhurst v. Sowler (v), that unless this is done the proprietors will be liable to an action for libel.

ARTICLE 19.-Reports of vestry meetings, &c. A report published in any newspaper (x) of any meeting of a vestry, town council, school board, board of guardians, board or local authority formed or constituted under the provisions of any Act of Parliament (y), or of any committee appointed by any of the above-mentioned bodies, or of any meeting of any commissioners authorized to act by letters patent, Act of Parliament, warrant under the Royal Sign Manual, or other lawful warrant or authority, or of select committees of either House of Parliament (2), is privileged, provided that,

(1.) Such report is fair and accurate; (2.) The public or a newspaper reporter was

admitted, or given an opportunity of

admission, to such meeting (a); (3.) The matter complained of is not blasphe

mous or indecent; and (4.) The matter complained of is of public

(v) (1887), 3 Times L. R. 193.
(x) As to the meaning of “newspaper,” see p. 28, supra.

(y) This would cover the report of the meeting of a County Council.

(2) See Rex v. Wright (1799), 8 T. R. 293. The 4th section of the Law of Libel Amendment Act, 1888 (51 & 52 Vict. c. 64), also protected reports “of any meeting : of justices of the peace in quarter sessions assembled, for administrative or deliberative purposes.” These functions of the justices were, however, transferred by the Local Government Act, 1888, to the County Councils.

(a) See Note 1.

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concern, or the publication thereof is for the public benefit. This privilege may be rebutted by proof (1) that the report was published or made maliciously; or (2) that the defendant has after request refused or neglected to insert in his newspaper a reasonable letter or statement by way of contradiction or explana

tion of such report (6). As to provisoes (1) and (4), see respectively Article 16, Note 2, p. 29, supra; and pp. 35–37, supra, Article 18, Notes 3 and 4, p. 38, supra.

NOTE 1.—“The public or a newspaper reporter was admitted, OR GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY OF ADMISSION,

to such meeting." It is submitted that the insertion of the words in capitals is in accordance with and justified by the true construction of the 4th section of the Law of Libel Amendment Act, 1888. See Appendix B., p. 103, infra.

NOTE 2.-It must be remembered that the report of any such meeting as the above, if published elsewhere than in a newspaper, as defined by the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act, 1881, e.g., in a magazine or a monthly trade paper, is in no way privileged. See Article 16, Note 1, p. 28, supra. Moreover, no report of any meeting other than those dealt with in Articles 18 and 19, supra, is privileged, whether published in a newspaper or elsewhere. Thus, if a newspaper or periodical publishes a fair and accurate report of the proceedings at a meeting of the creditors of a bankrupt or the shareholders of a company, such report is in no way privileged, and any one defamed thereby can maintain an action for libel. In such a case the defendant has only two courses open to him—to justify the words complained of (Article 11, supra), or to apologise and pay money into Court (Part I.,

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(b) 51 & 52 Vict. c. 64, s. 4, set out on pp. 103-104, infra.

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