Taking a Side: The Case for Neutral Reportage

35 Pages Posted: 14 May 2020

See all articles by Tamsin Black

Tamsin Black

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: September 2, 2019


In defamation law, the repetition rule states that someone who publishes a defamatory statement is no less liable than the person from whom it originated. “Neutral reportage” is a controversial defence to this long-standing rule. Last year in the case of Durie v Gardiner, the New Zealand Court of Appeal was unable to reach a unanimous agreement on how neutral reportage should be incorporated into the law, if at all. This essay considers the merits of the opinions in Durie, and examines the Court’s decision in the light of the history and purpose of the reportage doctrine. This essay contends that while the defence has been controversial, its existence is justified in New Zealand law. It then argues that while the majority were right to find that a reportage defence should exist, they erred in choosing to incorporate it into the responsible communication defence. This is due to reportage’s distinct doctrinal basis, and the inconsistencies in reconciling a responsible communication defence with one of reportage. Lastly, this essay outlines how a standalone defence of reportage could be defined in order to achieve doctrinal consistency and the careful balancing of rights that the law requires.

Keywords: defamation, repetition rule, neutral reportage, durie v gardiner

JEL Classification: K00, K13

Suggested Citation

Black, Tamsin, Taking a Side: The Case for Neutral Reportage (September 2, 2019). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper No. 20/2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3599677 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3599677

Tamsin Black (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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