"International tribunals - and increasingly national ones as well - are clear that politicians and governments may be subject to greater criticism and insult than ordinary private individuals and that consequently the law will offer them less protection. This is due to the fact that politicians bear great responsibility for leadership and representation of their constituents and their country, and because they have greater access to remedies than most ordinary people. Of course the situation that has so often prevailed is the opposite: government officials often invoking charges such as criminal defamation against critics. International law also distinguishes between factual allegations and opinions. Political opinions may only be restricted in the most extreme circumstances. They cannot be restricted on the grounds that they are "untrue" since, as the European Court of Human Rights observed, to require someone accused of defamation to prove the truth of an opinion "infringes freedom of opinion itself"...The civil law of defamation can legitimately be used to protect reputations against reckless and malicious allegations. But increasingly, national courts have ruled that the scope of defamation law must be such that it does not prevent the media from carrying out their proper function - or stifle vigorous political debate."
ACE: The Electoral Knowledge Network: The ACE Encyclopaedia: Media and Elections, pp. 76-77

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The ACE Encyclopaedia: Media and Elections