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COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a serious impact on businesses and private individuals. The Government has requested that various steps are taken by all members of society. Unfortunately, various approaches by businesses and individuals may have been subject to unwarranted criticism.
The attention is unprecedented, however there are remedies available. If defamatory comments have been made about you or your business you may wish to consider a claim in defamation against the publisher of the article. For the comments to be actionable they must be factually untrue and damage your reputation. It is recommended that a pre-action letter is issued as soon as possible following the publication of the offending article to provide the publisher with the opportunity to remove the offending article or issue a clarification if necessary. Whilst proceedings can be issued for up to one year from the date of the published article, it is recommended that to minimise the damage to your reputation that these matters are addressed as soon as possible after the publication of the article. You may be met with the rebuttal of the publisher that it has just reported the facts and that the information has been published in the public interest. These defences will be considered on a case by case basis.
Where the press is involved, most of the large media outlets are a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (“IPSO”). Their journalists are signed up to the press code and you can complain about the conduct of the publisher/journalist to IPSO. IPSO has the power to remove the article, however they do not have the powers to award damages. There are time limits for reporting to IPSO and matters to be considered alongside the commencement of civil proceedings.Legal advice should be sought.
Defamation matters are not limited to the standard media outlets. These issues are also faced across the various social media outlets. There are various remedies available, depending on whether this is a company or an individual that has suffered reputational damage at the hands of another. There are various mechanisms that can be utilised with the social media providers to draw to their attention the offending post or publication. Where the information has been published to cause distress or anxiety, where the information is false and known to be believed to be false by the sender, there may be criminal sanctions available. The PSNI should be notified.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Reputation Management team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.