n Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Striking a balance between media freedom and protection of reputation : the defence of reasonable publication in Botswana




The fear that material intended for publication by the media might contain falsehoods that may damage the reputation of others, has a chilling effect on media freedom. The resulting climate impacts negatively on investigative journalism, which constitutes one of the most potent mechanisms for ensuring accountability in a representative democracy. The position of the media was not helped by the traditional common law of defamation which does not recognise a general media privilege based on information in the public interest. The last two decades have, however, witnessed developments in the law of defamation where protection has been extended to the media where they disseminate information to the public on a matter of public interest provided the defendant is not at fault. This paper examines the defence of reasonable publication to a defamation suit that has been adopted by the courts of Botswana which is aimed at giving the media greater protection when disseminating information on matters of public interest that is honest, albeit erroneous.


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