Chapter 006:03 - Defamation

Link to law: http://legalaffairs.gov.gy/information/laws-of-guyana/453-chapter-603-defamation/file

L.R.O. 1/2012
LAWS OF GUYANA
DEFAMATION ACT
CHAPTER 6:03
Act
17 of 1959
Amended by
19 of 1990
Current Authorised Pages
Pages
(inclusive)
Authorised
by L.R.O.
1 – 13 ... 1/2012





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Note
on
Subsidiary Legislation
This Chapter contains no subsidiary legislation.


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CHAPTER 6:03
DEFAMATION ACT
ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS
SECTION
1. Short title.
2. Interpretation.
3. Broadcast statements.
4. Slander affecting official, professional or business reputation.
5. Slander of title and other injurious falsehood.
6. Slander of person.
7. Justification.
8. Fair comment.
9. Evidence of apology in mitigation of damages.
10. Evidence of other proceedings in mitigation of damages.
11. Special plea in action for libel in newspaper.
12. Unintentional defamation.
13. Newspaper reports of judicial proceedings privileged.
14. Newspaper reports of proceedings of public meetings privileged.
15. Limitation of privilege at elections.
16. Agreements for indemnity.
17. Consolidation of actions.
18. Extension of certain defences to broadcasting.
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17 of 1959 An Act to consolidate and amend the law of Slander and Libel.
[15TH AUGUST, 1959]
Short title.
Interpretation.

c. 47:01
1. This Act may be cited as the Defamation Act.
2. In this Act—
“broadcasting by means of wireless telegraphy” means
publication for general reception by means of wireless
telegraphy within the meaning of the Post and Telegraph Act and
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Broadcast
statements.
Slander
affecting
official,
professional or
business
reputation.
Slander of title
and other
injurious
falsehood.
“broadcast by means of wireless telegraphy” shall be
construed accordingly;
“Court” means the High Court;
“newspaper” means any paper containing public news,
intelligence or occurrences, or any remarks or observations
thereon printed for sale, and published in Guyana
periodically or in parts or numbers at intervals not exceeding
thirty-six days between the publication of any two such
papers, parts or numbers; also any paper printed in order to
be dispersed, and made public weekly or oftener, or at
intervals not exceeding thirty-six days containing only or
principally advertisements;
“words” includes a reference to pictures, visual images,
gestures and other methods of signifying meaning.
3. For the purposes of the law of libel and slander, the
broadcasting of words by means of wireless telegraphy shall
be treated as publication in permanent form.
4. In any action for slander in respect of words
calculated to disparage the plaintiff in any office, profession,
calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time
of the publication, it shall not be necessary to allege or prove
special damage, whether or not the words are spoken of the
plaintiff in the way of his office, profession, calling, trade or
business.
5. (1) In an action for slander of title, slander of goods
or other malicious falsehood, it shall not be necessary to
allege or prove special damage—
(a) if the words upon which the action is
founded are calculated to cause
pecuniary damage to the plaintiff and
are published in writing or other
permanent form; or
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Slander of
person.
[19 of 1990]
Justification.
Fair comment.
(b) if the said words are calculated to
cause pecuniary damage to the
plaintiff in respect of any office,
profession, calling, trade or business
held or carried on by him at the time
of the publication.
(2) Section 3 shall apply for the purposes of this
section as it applies for the purposes of the law of libel and
slander.
6. Words spoken and published which impute
unchastity or adultery to any person shall not require special
damage to render them actionable:
Provided always, that in any action for words spoken
and made actionable by this section, a plaintiff shall not
recover more costs than damages, unless the judge certifies
that there was reasonable ground for bringing the action.
7. In any action for libel or slander in respect of
words containing two or more distinct charges against the
plaintiff, a defence of justification shall not fail by reason only
that the truth of every charge is not proved if the words not
proved to be true do not materially injure the plaintiff’s
reputation having regard to the truth of the remaining
charges.
8. In any action for libel or slander in respect of
words consisting partly of allegations of fact and partly of
expression of opinion, a defence of fair comment shall not fail
by reason only that the truth of every allegation of fact is not
proved if the expression of opinion is fair comment having
regard to such of the facts alleged or referred to in the words
complained of as are proved.

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Evidence of
apology in
mitigation of
damages.
Evidence of
other
proceedings in
mitigation of
damages.

Special plea in
action for libel
in newspaper.

Unintentional
defamation.
9. In any action for libel or slander the defendant
(after notice in writing of his intention to do so, duly given to
the plaintiff at the time of filing or delivering the plea in that
action) may give in evidence in mitigation of damages that he
made or offered an apology to the plaintiff for the libel or
slander before the commencement of the action, or as soon
afterwards as he had an opportunity of doing so, if the action
has been commenced before there was an opportunity of
making or offering the apology.
10. In any action for libel or slander the defendant
may give evidence in mitigation of damages that the plaintiff
has recovered damages, or has brought actions for damages,
for libel or slander in respect of the publication of words to
the same effect as the words on which the action is founded,
or has received or agreed to receive compensation in respect
of any such publication.
11. (1) In any action for libel contained in any
newspaper, the defendant may plead that the libel was
inserted in that newspaper without actual malice and without
gross negligence, and that, before the commencement of the
action or at the earliest opportunity afterwards he inserted in
the newspaper a full apology for the said libel, or, if the
newspaper in which the said libel appeared is ordinarily
published at intervals exceeding one week, had offered to
publish the apology in any newspaper to be selected by the
plaintiff in the action.
(2) No defendant in the action may file any
such plea without at the same time making a payment of
money into Court by way of amends for the injury sustained
by the publication of the libel, and every plea so filed without
payment of money into Court shall be deemed a nullity and
may be so treated by the plaintiff in the action.
12. (1) A person who has published words alleged to
be defamatory of another person may, if he claims that the
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words were published by him innocently in relation to that
other person, make an offer of amends under this section; and
in any such case—
(a) if the offer is accepted by the party
aggrieved and is duly performed, no
proceedings for libel or slander shall
be taken or continued by that party
against the person making the offer in
respect of the publication in question
(but without prejudice to any cause of
action against any other person jointly
responsible for that publication);
(b) if the offer is not accepted by the
party aggrieved, then, except as
otherwise provided by this section, it
shall be a defence, in any proceedings
by him for libel or slander against the
person making the offer in respect of
the publication in question, to prove
that the words complained of were
published by the defendant
innocently in relation to the plaintiff
and that the offer was made as soon
as practicable after the defendant
received notice that they were or
might be defamatory of the plaintiff,
and has not been withdrawn.
(2) An offer of amends under this section must be
expressed to be made for the purposes of this section, and
must be accompanied by an affidavit specifying the facts
relied upon by the person making it to show that the words in
question were published by him innocently in relation to the
party aggrieved; and for the purposes of a defence under
subsection (1) (b) no evidence, other than evidence of facts
specified in the affidavit, shall be admissible on behalf of that
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person to prove that the words were so published.
(3) An offer of amends under this section shall be
understood to mean an offer—
(a) in any case, to publish or join in the
publication of a suitable correction of
the words complained of, and a
sufficient apology to the party
aggrieved in respect of those words;
(b) where copies of a document or record
containing the said words have been
distributed by or with the knowledge
of the person making the offer, to take
such steps as are reasonably
practicable on his part for notifying
persons to whom copies have been so
distributed that the words are alleged
to be defamatory of the party
aggrieved.
(4) Where an offer of amends under this section is
accepted by the party aggrieved—
(a) any question as to the steps to be
taken into fulfilment of the offer as so
accepted shall in default of agreement
between the parties be referred to and
determined by the Court, whose
decision thereon shall be final;
(b) the power of the Court to make orders
as to costs in proceedings by the party
aggrieved against the person making
the offer in respect of the publication
in question, or in proceedings in
respect of the offer under paragraph
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(a), shall include power to order the
payment by the person making the
offer to the party aggrieved of costs
on an indemnity basis and any
expenses reasonably incurred or to be
incurred by that party in consequence
of the publication in question;
and if no such proceedings as aforesaid are taken, the
Court may, upon application made by the party aggrieved,
make any such order for the payment of such costs and
expenses as aforesaid as could be made in such proceedings.
(5) For the purposes of this section words shall be
treated as published by one person (in this subsection
referred to as the publisher) innocently in relation to another
person if and only if the following conditions are satisfied,
that is to say—
(a) that the publisher did not intend to
publish them of and concerning that
other person, and did not know of
circumstances by virtue of which they
might be understood to refer to him;
or
(b) that the words were not defamatory
on the face of them, and the publisher
did not know of circumstances by
virtue of which they might be
understood to be defamatory of that
other person,
and in either case that the publisher exercised all reasonable
care in relation to the publication; and any reference in this
subsection to the publisher shall be construed as including a
reference to any servant or agent of his who was concerned
with the contents of the publication.
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Newspaper
reports of
judicial
proceedings
privileged.
Cap. 29
1953 Ed.
Newspaper
reports of
proceedings of
privileged.
(6) Subsection (1)(b) shall not apply in relation to
the publication by any person of words of which he is not the
author unless he proves that the words were written by the
author without malice.
13. A fair and accurate report in any newspaper of
proceedings publicly heard before any court exercising
judicial authority shall, if published contemporaneously with
such proceedings, be privileged:
Provided that nothing in this section shall authorise the
publication of any matter prohibited by the Judicial
Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Ordinance.
14. A fair and accurate report published in any
newspaper of the proceedings of a public meeting or (except
where neither the public nor any newspaper reporter is
admitted) of any meeting of a council, board or local
government authority formed or constituted under any
written law, or of any committee appointed by any of the
abovementioned bodies, and the publication at the request of
any Ministry or of any Government office or department of
any notice or report issued by them for the information of the
public shall be privileged, unless it shall be proved that such
report or publication was published or made maliciously:
Provided that—
(a) the protection intended to be afforded by
this section shall not be available as a
defence in any proceedings if it shall be
proved that the defendant has been
requested to publish in the newspaper in
which the report or other publication
complained of appeared, a reasonable letter
or statement by way of contradiction or
explanation of such report or other
public meetings
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Limitation on
privilege at
elections.
Agreements for
indemnity.
Consolidation
of actions.
publication, and has refused or neglected to
insert the same;
(b) nothing in this section shall be deemed or
construed to limit or abridge any privilege
now by law existing, or to protect the
publication of any matter not of public
concern and the publication of which is not
for the public benefit.
For the purposes of this section “public meeting” shall
mean any meeting bona fide and lawfully held for a lawful
purpose and for the furtherance or discussion of any matter
or public concern, whether the admission thereto be general
or restricted.
15. A defamatory statement published by or on behalf
of a candidate in any election to a local government authority
or to the National Assembly shall not be deemed to be
published on a privileged occasion on the ground that it is
material to a question in issue in the election, whether or not
the person by whom it is published is qualified to vote at the
election.
16. An agreement for indemnifying any person
against civil liability for libel in respect of the publication of
any matter shall not be unlawful unless at the time of the
publication that person knows that the matter is defamatory,
and does not reasonably believe there is a good defence to
any action brought upon it.
17. It shall be competent for a judge or the Court,
upon an application by or on behalf of two or more
defendants in actions in respect of the same, or substantially
the same, libel, slander, slander of title or other injurious
falsehood brought by one and the same person to make an
order for the consolidation of such actions, so that they shall
be tried together and after such order has been made, and
before the trial of the said actions, the defendants in any new
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Extension of
certain
defences to
broadcasting.
actions instituted in respect of the same, or substantially the
same, libel, slander, slander of title or other injurious
falsehood, shall also be entitled to be joined in a common
action upon a joint application being made by such new
defendants and the defendants in the actions already
consolidated.
(2) In a consolidated action under this section the
Court shall assess the whole amount of the damages (if any)
in one sum, but a separate verdict shall be taken for or against
each defendant in the same way as if the actions consolidated
had been tried separately; and if the Court shall have found a
verdict against the defendant or defendants in more than one
of the actions so consolidated, the judge shall proceed to
apportion the amount of the damages which he shall have so
found between and against the said last-mentioned
defendants; and the judge at the trial, if he awards to the
plaintiff the costs of the action, shall thereupon make such
order as he shall deem just for the apportionment of such
costs between and against such defendants.
18. (1) Sections 13 and 14 shall apply in relation to
reports or matters broadcast by means of wireless telegraphy
as part of any programme or service provided by means of a
broadcasting station within Guyana, and in relation to any
broadcasting by means of wireless telegraphy of any such
report or matter, as they apply in relation to reports and
matters published in a newspaper and to publications in a
newspaper; and paragraph (a) of the proviso to section 14
shall have effect, in relation to any such broadcasting, as if for
the words “in the newspaper in which” there were
substituted the words “in the manner in which”.
(2) In any action for a libel broadcast by means of
wireless telegraphy the defendant may plead that the libel
was broadcast without actual malice and without gross
negligence and that before the commencement of the action or
at the earliest opportunity afterwards he broadcast by means
of wireless telegraphy in the same manner in which the
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c. 47:01
original libel was broadcast a full apology for the said libel.
(3) Section 11(2) shall apply to any plea under
subsection (2) of this section.
(4) In this section “broadcasting station” means
any station in respect of which a licence granted by the
Minister under the Post and Telegraph Act is in force, being a
licence which (by whatever form of words) authorises the use
of the station for the purpose of providing broadcasting
services for general reception.
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