Texas courts recognize a number of privileges and defenses in the context of defamation actions, including substantial truth, the opinion and fair comment privileges, and the fair report privilege. Although the Texas Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue, many lower courts in Texas have recognized a privilege similar to the neutral reportage privilege.
The CMLP has not identified any cases in Texas that recognize the wire service defense.
There also is an important provision under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that may protect YOU if a third party – not you or your employee or someone acting under your direction – posts something on your blog or website that is defamatory. We cover this protection in more detail in the section on Publishing the Statements and Content of Others.
Most of the privileges and defenses to defamation can be defeated if the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted with actual malice. This does not apply to immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Fair Report Privilege
In Texas, the fair report privilege protects a "fair, true, and impartial account" of various official proceedings and meetings, including:
court proceedings, including reports of the contents of pleadings filed with the court;
executive or legislative proceedings, including proceedings of legislative committees;
proceedings before a managing board of an educational or charity institution supported from public funds;
proceedings of the governing body of a city or town, of a county commissioners court, or of a public school board; and
public meetings on matters of public concern.
One court has applied the fair report privilege to reporting based on a police department press release. See Freedom Commc'n v. Sotelo, 2006 WL 1644602 (Tex. App. June 15, 2006).