Defenses to Libel and Slander

The defendant in a defamation lawsuit, whether the case is libel or slander, can raise various defenses. If you want to understand how the defendant might defend himself from the allegations, it would be good to know the elements of libel and slander. The following are common defenses:


Basically, the common law would presume that the statement was false when the plaintiff would try to prove that the statement was defamatory. Modern law stipulates that the plaintiff who is a public official or public figure must show falsity as necessary for recovery. There are several states provided that falsity is considered an element of defamation that the plaintiff must show to recover. If this is not a prerequisite, the truth will act as an affirmative defense to the action for libel or slander.

This means that the statement need not literally be true to prove his defense. The Courts compel that the statement is largely true to apply the defense. Although the defendant says several statements that are false, or if the substance of the communication is generally true, the defendant can depend on the defense.


When the plaintiff agrees for the defamatory statement about him/her to be published, thus, this consent completes the defense to the defamation action.

Absolute Privileges

There are several defendants who are protected from responsibility in a defamation lawsuit and they will depend on the position or status of the defendants. The privileges are considered as absolute privileges and immunity may apply. This will mean that the defense does not depend on the nature of the statement or on the intent or purpose of the defendant in making the defamatory statement. Thus, the law acknowledges that there are some officials who may be protected from the responsibility in some cases or situations.

Here are some absolute privileges that can be applied to the following proceedings and circumstances:

  1. Judicial proceedings
  2. Legislative proceedings
  3. Publications between the spouses
  4. Publications that are required by the law
  5. Some executive statements and publications

Conditional Privileges

Certain privileges do not come in as a consequence of the individual making the defamatory statement, instead, these privileges come from certain occasion while making the statement. These privileges are considered conditional or qualified privileges. The defendant does not entitle to conditional privilege without showing that the defendant meets the conditions set for the privilege. Basically, the privilege can be applied when the defendant should believe that the statement is true. Additionally, depending on its jurisdiction, whether the defendant has reasonable grounds for believing the statement to be true or not, has acted irresponsibly in establishing the truth or falsity of the statement.

The conditional privileges are used to the following communications:

  • The statement is made to make sure the well-being of a member of the family.
  • The statement is made to protect the interest of the publisher.
  • The statement is made where the individual making the statement believes that general public needs the communication of the statement to a public official or other officials.
  • The statement is made to protect the interests of the third person.
  • The statement is made to protect the common interest.
  • The statement is made by an inferior state official who is not entitled to an absolute privilege.

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