Legal protection in court against slur or defamation

March 27, 2017

Slur and defamation are acts of wrong against the good name and reputation of concrete individual and pursue negative affect on the assaulted.

Mostly these wrongful acts affect the honor and dignity of a person, or seek to damage his/her prestige and good name in the society, to hurt their professional or author’s reputation, etc.

As a result, the person to whom verbal insults are constituted could suffer pecuniary (loss of income) or non-pecuniary damages (for example, negative emotions and feelings, health problems, stress, depression, social isolation, to be subject of negative behavior in their work environment, etc.). Here are included not only slur and calumny, but also any disgraceful and negatively accepted by the society statements, made about particular person; accusations in committed crime or other immoral acts, threats, etc. According to the local Law, there are two options for legal protection against these in the court of law:

1) Via initiating criminal proceeding, where protection and justice by the criminal court is pursued privately against slur or defamation (where it is also possible to attach civil claim for damages caused with the crime).

Slur and defamation are criminal acts of a private nature – so not the prosecutor but the victim is namely the legally entitled to initiate court proceeding via lodging a plaint at the related court of law for committed crime against them. A lawsuit is initiated where the court after successful decision of all elements from the crime, will proclaim the accused as guilty and will charge him/her with punishment (a fine and public reprimand) and will decide on the civil claim for damages, if such has also been lodged by the victim.

2) Via civil court proceeding where the claimant pursues reparation (compensation) of the caused with the slur or defamation pecuniary or non-pecuniary damages. These are the normal and logical result of the civil wrongful act and its compensation happens via lodging claim for award, which amount to compensate the injured. And if the claim is proven, then the civil court will sentence the defendant to pay compensation to the claimant for the caused damages in fair amount, so to recover it.

This type of court protection is more often used in our practice as it is preferred more by our clients, especially in situations when claimants pursue compensation from media (televisions, publishers, website owners) for publicly done slur or libel.

It is important to point here that if the claim is in excessive amount, and respectively is (partly) rejected by the court, then the claimant may be sentenced to cover respective part of the expenses, made by the defendant in relation to the lawsuit, if such expenses have been pretended. This is why in the case of slur or defamation, before lodging a claim, it is important to obtain legal advice by a professional lawyer in this sphere of practice, about the reasonable amount of compensation to be pretended in court, for avoiding any inconvenient financial outcome for the claimant.

“How to sue newspaper/television for slur or libel?”

Thanks to the growth of mass media (newspapers, magazines, internet-websites, television, radio, social networks like Facebook, Google+, etc.) came the growth of libel and slur, constituted with publications and perceived by many people (readers, listeners or viewers). This is why the defamed individuals are usually public figures or famous people /politicians, social leaders, actors, musicians, sport players, entertainers, etc.) But in many situations also regular citizens are being harmed by slur or libel by printed words, picture, etc. among huge audience.

For example social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) are sometimes used as an instrument by members for committing slur or libel. In the Bulgarian court practice there are already examples of lawsuits initiated by citizens and businesses who have been victims of disgraceful publications by members in social networks.
In the above cases privileged categories of slur and libel are detailed, and so the punishments and/or the given awards for damages by the civil court of law are bigger. If the slur or defamation is done via published article in a newspaper, magazine or website, without pointing who is the author, for the harmed individual there is the possibility to sue directly the media publisher. In such case only a civil lawsuit is possible, because corporate entities (publishers) could not bear criminal liability. There are many civil lawsuits of this type in our legal practice.
If the organ, where the slur or libel exists, is published in more than one country-member of the European Union, then the legal rules for pointing the relevant civil court have to be followed.

According to art.7, al.2 of Regime /EU/ No.1215/2012 of the European Parliament and the Council, authorized to hear the lawsuit is the court in the country-member, on the territory of which the damages have occurred (or are expected to occur). In such hypothesis the suffered could lodge claim at the country-member, where the publisher resides, or in every country-member, where he/she claims that damages have been suffered. In the second option dough, the claimant should prove the concrete damages suffered on the territory of the related country-member.
More specific is the topic about pointing the applicable court, when the slur or defamation has been spread via internet, because then the information is perceived very quickly by unlimited number of users. In this situation the injured could lodge a claim for compensation of all suffered damages before the court in this country-member, where his/her interests are concentrated (for example there is their place of residence, workplace, etc.). There is also the above possibility to lodge a claim in the court of a country, where damages have occurred too.
If you need further information on the above points or guidance on slur or defamation, feel free to contact us: http://lexsofia.com/contacts/

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