Georgia courts recognize a number of privileges and defenses in the context of defamation actions, including substantial truth, the fair report privilege, and the opinion and fair comment privileges. The CMLP has not identified any cases in Georgia concerning the wire service defense. It is unclear whether Georgia courts recognize the neutral reportage privilege.
Most of the privileges and defenses to defamation in Georgia can be defeated if the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted with actual malice.
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.
Fair Report Privilege
Fair and accurate reports of legislative and court proceedings are among the privileged communications protected by statute in Georgia. See Ga. Code Ann. §51-5-7(5), (6). This privilege also extends to fair, accurate, and impartial reports about administrative agency proceedings. Morton v. Stewart, 266 S.E.2d 230, 233 (Ga. Ct. App. 1980). Georgia courts have generally, but not universally, held that the fair report privilege is qualified and can be defeated by proof of actual malice. Ga. Code Ann. §51-5-7(8) also provides a qualified privilege for truthful reports of information received from arresting officers or police authorities.
Neutral Reportage Privilege