Legal Updates

Publishing defamation out of a personal belief that it is true does not by itself absolve the publisher from liability

May 9, 2024

A council member of a local authority published a post on Facebook in which he criticized an inspector in the local planning and construction committee, attributing to him a corrupt conduct, believing that he acted on behalf of political parties in order to file an indictment against him for construction irregularities he had carried out.

The Court accepted the inspector's claim and held that he should be compensated for defamation. Defamation is, inter alia, a publication that may humiliate a person in the eyes of others or humiliate the person due to its actions, behavior or attributes attributed to it or that may harm its business or profession. The publisher may have a defense under Israeli law if the publications were true and there was a public interest in them, subject to the fact that it acted in good faith. The publication must be reasonable, one must not publish anything that the publisher did not believe to be true, reasonable measures must be taken in advance to examine the truthfulness of the publication and the publisher must not intend to cause undue harm. Here, the council member did express criticism based on a subjective belief that this was true, but in practice the publication was not true and the council member did not take reasonable measures in advance to examine the veracity of the publication and even intended to cause harm beyond such that was required. Therefore, he is not entitled to a defense under law and must compensate the inspector who duly performed his duty.