Taking a Side: The Case for Neutral Reportage
35 Pages Posted: 14 May 2020
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: Suggested Citation