A police officer in Indiana was accused of misconduct, and the accusation was duly reported by the media. It turned out the accusations were false. But a jury awared the officer $1.5M in a libel suit against the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. The Society for Professional Journalists, joined by the Indiana Broadcasters Association, the Associated Press and newspaper organizations is supporting an appeal.
“This situation is disturbing,” SPJ President Dave Aeikens said. “You have a newspaper being sued because it accurately reported about a complaint against a law enforcement officer. It is critical to the public interest that journalists be able to report issues from the public record and be free from lawsuits.”
The organizations have submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Tribune-Star. They argue that there was no malice in the reporting of the case, an element which is necessary to prove libel. They note further reporting events as they develop is a critical element in the free flow of information and is part of the press’s watchdog role.