Defamation laws would protect Qld media

Journalists will be able to claim a public interest defence against face defamation actions under proposed laws in Queensland.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman introduced amendments to the Defamation Act - which she says will provide clarity to courts, the community and the media - to parliament on Tuesday.

Queensland laws already allow people to make potentially defamatory statements if they have a legal or moral duty to so, such as in employment references or when reporting suspected crimes.

Ms Fentiman says the changes would allow journalists to prove in court that they reasonably believed that publishing an allegedly defamatory statement was in the public interest.

"In order to guard against the potential 'chilling effect' defamation laws have on debates on matters of legitimate public interest and to protect reasonable public interest journalism, the bill will introduce a new public interest defence," Ms Fentiman told parliament on Tuesday.

The amendments are based on existing UK laws, but they will add a list of factors courts can take into account when considering the public interest defence.

Those considerations include the seriousness of the defamatory imputation, whether it relates to a person's official public activities and the importance of freedom of expression.

The proposed laws will also protect publishers of allegedly defamatory statements in scientific or academic journal if they have been independently reviewed.

However, plaintiffs can still defeat that defence if they can prove a statement was not published honestly for the "advancement of education".

Ms Fentiman said the proposed laws will also put the onus on plaintiffs to prove allegedly defamatory statements caused serious harm to their reputations.

Corporations must prove they have suffered serious financial loss has been caused or will be caused by the publication of allegedly defamatory statements.

Plaintiffs will also have to notify publications about allegedly defamatory statements, and the serious harm caused, before taking legal action.

The attorney-general said the laws are set to pass on July 1 in line with NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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