Defamation – Who can sue?

When it comes to taking action against those who have committed a defamation, everyone who has participated in or is responsible for the publication can be sued.

An example of this is if a freelance journalist wrote an article which is published in a newspaper and then found to be defamatory the following people may potentially be sued:

1. The freelance journalist
2. The editor
3. The publisher
4. The printer
5. The retailers who sell the newspaper

In practice however one action would be brought against the publisher, the editor and the journalist. Whilst it is unusual for an action to be brought against the printers or distributors it can happen (see John Major v Scallywag Magazine).

It is also important to remember that every time the defamatory statement is repeated, it gives rise to a fresh cause of action and each person that repeats it will be liable as though they were the original authors.

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