This post was originally published on my JN 499 class blog at The University of Alabama, a course dealing with journalism ethics: https://uajn499.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/defamation-after-death-is-it-fair-game/
It was then later published on DoingEthicsInMedia.com, the website for the “Doing Ethics in Media: Theories and Practical Applications” textbook used for the course: http://www.doingethicsinmedia.com/wp/its-legal-to-defame-a-dead-person-but-that-does-not-make-it-ethical/
When Vladlen Putistin took his case to court, his claim was clear: He wanted the information rectified and he wanted compensation for the damages. In his view, he believed the journalist’s statements in her published newspaper article defamed his father, thus justifying his decision to sue.
In July 2001, Putistin sued the newspaper Komsomolska Pravda and its journalist on the grounds that an article published three months earlier was harmful to the reputation of his father, Mikhail. Putistin claimed that the article, titled “The Truth about the Death Match,” an infamous soccer match played in Kiev – then a part of the Soviet Union – between former professional soccer players and German military personnel in 1942 during the midst of World War II, suggested Mikhail, a Soviet, was a Nazi collaborator.
But there’s a catch: His father was dead before the article was ever published.