Defamation of character or freedom of speech?

Courts have been indicating that the amount of cases in terms of defamation of character is on the rise. People feel that their rights are violated by another person and that the “victim” should be compensated for the violation to them as a person. However the constitution states that each person is entitled to express themselves through Freedom of Speech.
In South African Law there is no clear cut distinction between the two and therefore each case is taken on merit. As confirmed with the Magistrate they will determine to what extent the defaming remarks have caused damage and then award accordingly, however most matters are settled out of court.
In terms of the amount awarded to the “victim”, this would be dependent on circumstances and the extent of damage caused. There is no set guideline that the Magistrate’s follow. When advising friends or clients, always explain that their legal costs can possibly exceed their amount that they are awarded.

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