Defence of Fair Report of Proceedings of Public Concern

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The statutory defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern is outlined in section 29 of the Defamation Act 2005 (‘the Defamation Act’)and refers to reports of any public proceedings in a court, tribunal, parliament, learned society, recreational association, sport association, trade association, ombudsman, law reform body, organisations of another Australian jurisdiction, or public meetings, provided they are reported fairly.1

Section 29(5) of the Defamation Act expands on the meaning of various bodies that is able to attract the defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern, including:

  • Law reform body: a body created by law for the purpose of reforming laws within a particular country through inquiries and recommendations;
  • Learned society: a body where there is an advancement in learning of art, science, or religion;
  • Ombudsman: is a legal authority that investigates complaints relating to the conduct of public bodies or officials;
  • Sport or recreational association: a body carrying out a form of exercise, game, or pastime;
  • Trade association: a body that promotes a trade, business, or industry.

Courts and Inquiries

Pursuant to subsection 29(4)(e) of the Defamation Act, reports of proceedings held in courts and tribunals are protected under the defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern even where the reports are in reference to proceedings in other countries. Similarly, subsection 29(4)(d) extents the defence to reports of proceedings in the International Court of Justice and other judicial or tribunal proceedings involving disputes between nations. Reports of legal proceedings relating to inquiries or government are further protected under subsection 29(4)(f).

Parliament

Pursuant to subsection 29(4)(a) of the Defamation Act, the defence of fair report protects reports of proceedings in parliament, including reports of proceedings, authorised documents, and debates.

Associations or Bodies

Associations or bodies protected under the defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern include learned societies,2 sport or recreation associations,3 and trade associations.4

Council Meetings

Under subsection 29(4)(g), council meetings are protected by the defence of fair report of proceedings. This extends to proceedings of local government bodies in Australia.

Statutory Authorities

Statutory authorities protected by the defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern include the ombudsman,5 law reform bodies,6 any other proceedings conducted an Australian jurisdiction of public concern,7 and local proceedings of a specific kind8.

International Bodies

International bodies, including international organisations of governments of other countries, are protected by the defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern under subsection 29(4)(b) of the Defamation Act. Conferences held with respect to these types of proceedings are similarly protected under subsection 29(4)(c). The International Court of Justice and other international judicial or tribunal proceedings are protected under subsection 29(4)(d).

Public Meetings

Subsection 29(4)(l) of the Defamation Actprovides for proceedings of public meetings to be protected under the defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern. Public meetings refer to meetings where the matter relates to one of public interest, including advocacy or candidature for an individual for a position of public office. Meetings of shareholders of public companies pursuant to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) are similarly protected under subsection 29(4)(k).

Contact Harris Defamation Lawyers

If you have been accused of publishing a defamatory comment and believe you may be protected under the defence of fair report of proceedings of public concern, contact Harris Defamation Lawyers today for a no-cost, obligation-free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

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