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A) Using the facts of this case please discuss whether reporting and criticism has crossed the line into defamation. Identify who can sue, who can be sued, and what the person filing the defamation lawsuit must show.

Hong Kong’s home-grown “K-pop” band WFH performed three sell-out concerts in the city last year.  Two days before the first performance, the South Oriental Apple Post (SOAP), a local newspaper, published the following story.

City’s favourite band in gangland drug scandal.

Hong Kong’s most popular K-pop-style band has been plunged into scandal with the police investigating allegations one of its leading members is involved in organized crime and illicit drugs.

A SOAP inquiry has revealed the star with WFH, soon to perform three sell-out concerts at Hong Kong Stadium, regularly associated with triad gangsters and enjoyed smoking cannabis. A source revealed the singer is “closely involved with organized crime.”

The news has come as a shock to the band’s army of fans who are eagerly awaiting the chance to see their idols perform live.  It has shattered the stars’ image which has been built on being innocent, responsible and drug free.

One fan, Jessica Wong, wept as she told SOAP: “I can’t believe it.  I thought I was I was in love with him.  He was so perfect.  But it was all a sham.  He is not fit to call himself a K-pop star and should never perform again.”

The band, which has seven members, declined to give SOAP an interview.

A police spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on individual cases.”  But a police source, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I can confirm we are investigating someone from the entertainment industry.  He is very famous.”

Numerous K-pop stars have been embroiled in scandals in recent times.  But the WFH star is the first from Hong Kong to be caught breaking the law.

The story appears on the front page of the newspaper, which has a circulation of 500,000 in Hong Kong.  It also appears on the SOAP.com website, where it attracts 800,000 page views.  SOAP also posts a link to the story on its social media channels with the headline “WFH star in crime scandal.”

On the day the story is published, Handsome Man, lead singer for the band CUTE, bitter rivals of WFH, tweets a link to the SOAP story along with the words “The secret is out at last.  Now everyone knows Charlie Idol is a criminal.  What a disgrace!”

Charlie Idol is the lead singer for WFH.   While on stage at one of the concerts in Hong Kong, he tells the 40,000 strong audience: “Handsome Man is a liar. He is also the ugliest pop star in the world!” The concert, including the remarks made by Charlie Idol, are live-streamed on the band’s website. 

The police have recently confirmed that they did investigate an allegation that Charlie Idol was involved in organized crime and illegal drugs.  But there was insufficient evidence to bring charges and the case is closed.  It has also emerged that the investigation was launched after a complaint to the police from Handsome Man.

SOAP had one source for its story.  That source was Handsome Man.  The reporter approached an agent for the band, the night before publishing the story, requesting an interview about the forthcoming concerts.  That request was declined.

Please answer the two questions below:

  1. A)    Using the facts of this case please discuss whether reporting and criticism has crossed the line into defamation. Identify who can sue, who can be sued, and what the person filing the defamation lawsuit must show. Your analysis must also consider defenses available to those sued and potential damages. Include reference to pertinent case law in your discussion.

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