A new ruling by the Supreme Court in Canada will allow journalists and bloggers greater protection from defamation lawsuits, establishing the new defence of responsible journalism.
If sued for defamation, journalists will be able to defend themselves by proving that they acted in the public interest and that they acted in a responsible way to gather the information. This rule will still apply even if particular facts are found to be false.
Director of News Content at Nova Scotia newspaper The Chronicle Herald Dan Leger called the decision "a light that will illuminate free speech in Canada for generations to come".
"This means stories that have stayed under wraps because of 'libel chill' will emerge into the light," he wrote in an article. "It means powerful and well-financed individuals won't so easily avoid public scrutiny just because they have pit-bull lawyers."
Other commentators were less optimistic. Ryerson University Professor of Journalism Jeffrey Dvorkin said that news organisations may still be less able than ever to deliver on expectations of aggressive journalism.
"That's because as layoffs continue at news organizations and as newsrooms are pared down to the editorial bone, the ability of news organizations to engage in deep, contextual investigative journalism is far from what it once was, or what it should be," he wrote.
The decision concerned two defamation cases brought against newspapers. The papers lost but will now go back to trial with the new defence available.