The Capital

The one recourse individuals have against the press is to sue newspapers, magazines, or other press organizations for libel. The Court has made it more difficult for public officials to sue for libel than for private people to do so, because of the voluntary sacrifice of privacy implicit in a public official's decision to enter public life.



While the press cannot be restrained from publishing libelous materials, those being allegedly libelled can sue the press after the publication. In a landmark libel case, New York Times v Sullivan, the Supreme Court overturned the libel conviction of the New York Times, stating that a public official could not sue for libel unless he or she could prove that the statements published were made with actual malice.

In the case of Falwell v. Hustler (1988), the Court overturned the conviction of Hustler Magazine for printing a satirical cartoon of Reverend Jerry Falwell. Considering the nation's long history of satire, the court ruled unanimously that public officials could not sue for libel for satire. In 1976, in the case of Firestone v. Time, the Court limited the definition of public officials to those who knowingly became public officials, and not those who are drawn into the public light unwittingly.