The Citizen V McBride 2010 (4) sa 148 (sca) As a matter of fact: But whose fact?

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5 4 Matter of Public Interest

Finally, a successful defence of fair comment requires that the defendant should have commented on a matter of public interest. In other words, the matter commented on must concern the public (Burchell 274-75). Matters of public interests include, inter alia, matters about the administration of justice, the conduct of public figures, political and state institutions, books, films, and works of art (Burchell 283). The appellants were commenting on a matter of public interest, as Mthiyane JA correctly held (par 83). Their comment related to a public figure who aspired to a senior public position. Thus this element is satisfied in respect of The Citizen's case. However, the comment per se was not in the public interest, as it was against the spirit of reconciliation and nation building engendered by the TRC Act.

Hence, it is submitted that, perhaps, this requirement should be given an extended meaning which also looks at whether the comment made is in the public interest, rather than simply requiring that one be commenting on a matter of public interest. In other words, it must be shown that the public stands to derive some benefit from comments in the same way as is the case in the defence of truth and public benefit.

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