Freedom of speech and the press cannot be absolute, regardless of whether they are constitutional rights or not. They must be balanced against reputation and other competing individual and societal interests. The libel law of a society indicates to a large extent how the society views reputational interests in comparison with freedom of expression.

Harm to reputation is a criminal offense or a civil wrong—or both—in nearly every society. Nonetheless, reputation as a sociocultural and legal value varies from society to society. American libel law is a case in point. In the United States, freedom of the press is protected as a constitutional right, but reputation is not. In many ways, the U.S. approach to press freedom versus reputation emanates from Americans' deliberate judgments as to ...

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