Words are powerful and leave their effect long after they have been uttered. It is reprehensible to carelessly damage a person’s reputation and legacy by promoting rumor, innuendo, gossip and sensationalism after they have passed on. We are seeking to make it unlawful to defame a person who is deceased. The First Amendment is not a free pass to exploit people for entertainment and profit. Slander and libel are not protected expressions under the First Amendment while a person is living, and that same protection should extend to people after they are deceased.
Freedom of speech is our right, and to lose any part of that freedom would be a travesty. However, with freedom comes responsibility. The California Constitution actually addresses the issue of responsibility, as follows:
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SEC. 2. (a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.”
Our focus is the ABUSE of this right. We must be free to express our thoughts; however, we are not entitled to express them as fact, gossip, innuendo, lies, and conjecture. The families and friends of the deceased should not have to endure defamatory stories presented as facts about their departed loved ones. Opinions expressed that infringe upon a person’s civil right (that which is good or proper and conforms to fact or truth) should be considered as abusive, harmful, offensive and infringing upon their quality of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, which are their inalienable rights. This is a form of BULLYING. Therefore, offenders should be held liable and required to give account for their expressed thoughts, views, or attitudes; especially those based mainly upon emotion instead of reason or knowledge.
It is time to address the general lack of integrity, responsibility, and accountability on the part of our news media. The line between responsible journalism and tabloid journalism has become so blurred that a new term, “medialoid” has been coined. Too often truth and unbiased objectivity are missing in the presentation of information. The coverage of Michael Jackson’s sudden death in 2009 is a perfect example of a deceased person being exploited for entertainment and profit. The media’s treatment of Mr. Jackson while he lived was an aggressive and egregious misuse of the power of words; it is even more disturbing that he continues to be denigrated after his passing. Although a high profile celebrity is named here as an example of the damage that can be committed by a media out of control, the potential damage of words used irresponsibly extends equally to everyone, regardless of fame, wealth, or social standing.
If you believe it should be unlawful for people, including the media, to defame those who have passed on, please sign the Cadeflaw petition. We are seeking to change the current law in California; a cause of action so that a cause of defamation could be asserted on behalf of the dead.