The law of Defamation in Cyprus is a legal tort based on an intentional or reckless public false statement that injures another person’s reputation (Cap 48).
There are two types of Defamation in Cyprus: libel (a publication in permanent form) and slander (a publication in transitory form).
This distinction is important since in the event where slander is claimed, the plaintiff will be required to prove that he or she has sustained special damages (unless the exceptions listed in s. 17 (3) apply) whilst in the case of libel, special damages need not be proved.
Section 178 (1) of the Civil Wrongs Law codifies, in essence, the common law definition for Defamation. It provides that the said civil wrong consists of the publication by any person by means of print, writing, painting, effigy, gestures, spoken words9 or other sounds, or by any other means whatsoever, including broadcasting by wireless telegraphy, of any matter which: (a) imputes to any other person a crime,
(b) imputes to any other person misconduct in any public office,
(c) naturally tends to injure or prejudice the reputation of any other person in the way of his profession, trade, business, calling or office,
(d) is likely to expose any other person to general hatred, contempt or ridicule or
(e) is likely to cause any other person to be shunned or avoided by other persons.
Legal persons may also bring a lawsuit for defamation in instances where there are, for example, allegations as to a company’s dishonest behaviour or mismanagement.
In Cyprus, freedom of Speech is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution. However, it needs to be harmonized with other human rights, most notably the right to the protection of honour and respect:
In general, a lawyer must check whether there
(a) has been a defamatory statement
(b) whether this statement has been published to third parties (published includes any way the information has been spread to a third party),
(c) the speaker knew this statement was false
(d) the client has suffered injury because of this defamatory statement.
In order to succeed in establishing a case and thus succeed in his/HER claim, a plaintiff suing for defamation will need to prove:
(a) That the publication in question was defamatory;
(b) That the publication referred to the plaintiff;
(c) That there was publication;
(d) That the plaintiff incurred special damages (only for slander).
Section 7 of the Civil Wrongs Law provides that a legal person needs to prove special damage in order to succeed in its claim for any civil wrong. However, the Cypriot Supreme Court has held that in the event where the elements of defamation simultaneously constitute injurious falsehood under either of ss. 25(1) or 25(2) of the Civil Wrongs Law, then no special damage needs be proven.
In a lawsuit for defamation, the words used constitute essential facts and therefore must be included in the Particulars of Claim.
The meaning and importance of a defamatory publication are judged according to the place, time and circumstances under which this has taken place.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof for defamation is that of the balance of probabilities and it initially rests on the plaintiff. Defences s. 19 of the Civil Wrongs Law codifies the defences to defamation as those of: (a) Justification, (b) Fair Comment, (c) Privilege (Absolute and Qualified) and (d) Offer of Amends.
When a person or a business feels that their reputation has been harmed by such a false statement, Court action can be pursued. Whether damages can be recovered or not, depends to a large extent as to whether the innocent party is a public figure or not. It is easier to show to Court that a public person can suffer economic loss due to such a false statement than a person that is not a public figure. However, anyone can seek special damages if they can show loss in their trade or profession because of the damage to reputation caused by the false statement.
Before pursuing Court action, it is common to seek to settle such a matter out of Court. It could be that the defamer, issues an apology to the person/company to whom he/she made the defamatory statements and retracts the remarks.
For a Court action to succeed, it must be proven to Court that the defamatory statement caused damage to the innocent party and that the statement was intentionally communicated to someone.
Allowable defences include the allegation that the statement was truthful, privilege and fair comment which means the statement was simply the view of the person who made the statement alleged to be defamatory.
It must be noted that no action can be brought for defamation following one year from the date of cause of action.
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