The state’s Supreme Judicial Court issued an important decision today that reaffirms protections for the news media against libel suits.
The case involved a town employee in Abington who was fired after sexually explicit images were discovered on his town-owned computer. The Enterprise of Brockton published a series of stories on official actions taken against the employee (who was eventually fired), based almost entirely on anonymous sources.
The SJC decision, written by Justice Robert Cordy, found that the fair-report privilege, which allows journalists to report libelous statements made in the course of official proceedings, applies even when those reports are based on anonymous sources.
Cordy also ruled that the Enterprise’s stories were substantially fair and accurate despite an error in one of the stories, and that the ex-employee could not sue the paper for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.