Opinion: Slander

POSTED: 01/6/12 5:00 PM

A false report maliciously uttered and tending to injure the reputation of a person. That’s how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines slander.
Last month this newspaper was involved in a court case with an attorney who thought we had slandered him with our reporting. He took us to court, and lost. That case is settled and we don’t want to dwell on it. When we met said attorney in court during the first session of the year on Wednesday, we shook hands and wished each other the best for the New Year.
There is a certain charm to such a conclusion to a dispute. After all, it was nothing personal, and the judge neatly sorted the matter out.
There is a difference however between slandering someone in traditional print media and slandering them on a web site. There is currently no legislation to get justice when someone uses a web site to slander your reputation, so internet-scribes (most of them are not fit to call themselves journalists) have the freedom to write whatever enters their head.
That leads to ugly results every now and then. Also last month, a local gossip web site accused the news editor of this newspaper of plagiarism. On closer inspection of that issue, we realized that the writer at the web site has no clue about the definition of plagiarism; we also found that our news editor, in fact, had done nothing wrong, but in the meantime the website happily dragged his name and with it the reputation of this newspaper through the mud.
That same web site published earlier this week a story about how the detective department of our police force is falling apart. Dumbo’s who took the story for the Holy grail went to sleep with the impression that the department head is a heartless bitch who does not respect anybody. But the truth is (again) different. Maybe one detective had trouble accepting the authority of a woman – we’re not sure. But for the rest, all we hear is about normal internal transfers of detectives who are eager to make a career move.
So what is this all about? It almost feels like said gossip web site lets itself be used as a tool for characters that have an axe to grind. The same web site is always quick to point out how people in need of urgent medical care are dying at the hospital because the doctors want to ascertain first that their charge has medical insurance.
That this is pure nonsense has never bothered this web site. Unfortunately, too many people love to read fodder (hence the popularity of the Telegraaf to start again in the Netherlands for instance), so these stories – false as they are – do have an impact.
We’re not going to start again about a young woman we have more than once labeled our local internet-terrorist, but we’d like to point out to our legislators that it is time to get their house in order and to make sure that internet-publication have to play by the same rules as traditional print media.
Such legislation does not affect print media, like our newspaper, because we keep to our own high standards of ethics in journalism. And if we don’t, our readers are free to call us on it, and we guarantee that we will correct mistakes. No, such legislation would first and foremost offer protection to citizens who are now defenseless against internet-harassment. The sooner our legislators put a stop to this practice, the better it is for everyone.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Slander by

Comments are closed.