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Defamation

‘(I)t is of the utmost consequence that the people should discuss the character and qualifications of candidates for their suffrages. The importance to the state and to society of such discussions is so vast, and the advantages derived are so great that they more than counterbalance the inconvenience of private persons whose conduct may be involved, and occasional injury to the reputations of individuals must yield to the public welfare, although at times such injury may be great. The public benefit from publicity is so great and the chance of injury to private character so small that such discussion must be privileged.’ The court thus sustained the trial court’s instruction as a correct statement of the law, saying:

‘In such a case the occasion gives rise to a privilege qualified to this extent. Any one claiming to be defamed by the communication must show actual malice, or go remediless. This privilege extends to a great variety of subjects and includes matters of public concern, public men, and candidates for office.’ [Cc]. Such a privilege for criticism of official conductis appropriately analogous to the protection accorded a public official when he is sued for libel by a private citizen. [Cc]

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We conclude that such a privilege is required by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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