‘A Man of Bad Character Has Not so Much to Lose’: Truth as a Defence in the South African Law of Defamation
University of Edinburgh - School of Law
November 22, 2011
South African Law Journal, Vol. 128, pp. 452-78, 2011
Edinburgh School of Law Working Paper No. 2011/39
This paper examines, from a historical and comparative perspective, the role of truth in the South African law of defamation. In order to understand to what extent the law of South Africa might represent a mixture of civilian and common-law thinking, it first sets out the viewpoint of, on the one hand, Roman and Roman-Dutch law and, on the other hand, English law. Against this background, the dominant position of South African law appears avowedly civilian, a stand explained by the fact that the South African law of defamation really is a law of verbal insults, as in Rome, rather than a law of injuries to deserved reputation, as in England. However, an interesting dissident strand in favor of the sufficiency of truth can be seen to exist in the background, which is explored. This dissenting strand is certainly English in substance, but this does not entail that it has English roots.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: defamation, verbal injuries, truth, veritas, public benefit, South African law, actio iniuriarum
Date posted: November 22, 2011 ; Last revised: February 14, 2014
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