‘A Man of Bad Character Has Not so Much to Lose’: Truth as a Defence in the South African Law of Defamation

South African Law Journal, Vol. 128, pp. 452-78, 2011

Edinburgh School of Law Working Paper No. 2011/39

31 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2011 Last revised: 14 Feb 2014

Eric Descheemaeker

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School

Date Written: November 22, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: defamation, verbal injuries, truth, veritas, public benefit, South African law, actio iniuriarum

Suggested Citation

Descheemaeker, Eric, ‘A Man of Bad Character Has Not so Much to Lose’: Truth as a Defence in the South African Law of Defamation (November 22, 2011). South African Law Journal, Vol. 128, pp. 452-78, 2011; Edinburgh School of Law Working Paper No. 2011/39. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1963171 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1963171

Eric Descheemaeker (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia

Paper statistics

Downloads
111
Rank
207,044
Abstract Views
767