There are few more obvious limitations on free speech than the anachronism that is defamation law.
Those who have followed the sorry and sad Savile case in the UK can be forgiven for wondering...how did he get away with it for so long, when so many knew?
There are two significant reasons:
Defamation law and the sickening silence and denial surrounding sexual abuse including inappropriate sexual behaviour. The two combine to create a cone of silence based upon fear.
In some cases the silence and or a reluctance to be more forthright about reporting the truth by those who may have known and wanted to tell was likely due to the threat of ruin by defamation law and the lack of support they knew could be the likely consequence of their coming forward publicly. Social politics comes into play in addition, the consequences are high. The victim's situation and or the truth becomes so much collateral damage.
Who might have dared to accuse Savile of the acts and behaviours now freely reported since his death, particularly in the UK? Information shared that is damaging to a reputation [even though true] is defamation in the UK and Australia. The truth is of little consequence as the systems supporting this law will first make every attempt to pauperise the teller of the truth, as this teller, this whistle blower, becomes the primary target. Once litigation begins there is little choice. Retract, pay damages, and recant stating what was claimed as truth was all a lie, or go through the legal processes. Some may feel they have no choice, others aware they are up against a flawed system cave. Some imagine the courts will reveal the truth and that truth and logic will prevail. The innocence of this assumption of the law is touching, honourably and genuinely felt but entirely and devastatingly wrong.
What defamation law does best is to protect, ultimately itself, and to operate at great financial and social cost. It costs the whistle blower and it costs the society as the truth becomes so much insignificant dust amongst the damage wrought by "due process".
Who cares for the truth after-all? Not the law, not the legal system, not the players of defamation roulette.
What does manage to happen is that an industry where all or many of the listed players end up taking their cut goes on operating in flawed abandon without checks and balances to limit its misuse.
Litigious malcontents desperate to hide the truth about themselves wield defamation law as a weapon resulting in the silence and compliance of most defendants.
From the perspective of a defendant who can rely upon truth the system is set up so as to extort a retraction in order to escape seemingly inevitable financial disaster. The cost to society is that reputation has become an entity so sacred that it deserves protection over and above all other considerations. This is wrong, this does not demonstrate any rule of law or justice. This is a sick system open to manipulation.