Prof Pierre de Vos: Legal Opinion on linking to web sites containing questionable material

Since much mileage has been made of the legalities of linking to web sites allegedly containing defamatory material, I asked Professor of law, University of the Western Cape,  Pierre de Vos for his thoughts on the matter.

Here is what he wrote me.

Well as far as I understand it, at present it is not legally problematic to LINK to a site – even if that site contains defamatory material. Those who feel aggrieved should send a notice to the actual site containing the defamation and get them to remove the material. That is why I had no qualms linking to it.

My post on whether this is defamation presents a more complex case. I am making an argument that this should not be viewed as defamation. I am not giving a legal opinion on whether it would – in law – constitute defamation. I suspect some judges will agree with me but that others won’t. I argue that this is because of their own prejudice and social conservatism.

I believe that this is the only viable approach for journalists (and bloggers) to adopt. A free press needs freedom from the duress of legal sanction to be able to report news accurately, fully and honestly.