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TV Azteca v. Trevi

Post categories

  1. Libel and Privacy

Court: Texas Supreme Court

Date Filed: June 7, 2024

Background: In 2009, Mexican pop singer Gloria Trevi and her family members sued TV Azteca alleging defamation and other claims stemming from the television network’s reporting and commentary referencing various claims made against her dating back to before her 2000 arrest in Brazil, where she had fled to avoid prosecution. Trevi was extradited and later acquitted of the criminal charges while some civil lawsuits filed both against and by her in Mexico and the United States, arising out of alleged abuse of minors, remain pending. 

TV Azteca sought to dismiss the Trevi’s Texas libel lawsuit under the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which protects defendants from meritless lawsuits intended to stifle the exercise of First Amendment rights. 

The Texas Court of Appeals issued an opinion in 2022 dismissing many — but not all — of the claims against TV Azteca. In its decision, the appeals court found that Trevi could proceed with the lawsuit over a statement that did not specifically mention her, declining to apply the “group libel doctrine,” which requires the plaintiff to show that the challenged statement singled out and defamed the plaintiff specifically. The appeals court also refused to dismiss a claim related to an online article in which TV Azteca summarized allegations against Trevi.

TV Azteca filed a petition asking the Texas Supreme Court to hear the case. After the Supreme Court declined the request, TV Azteca filed a motion asking the Court to reconsider, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of that motion. 

Our Position: The Texas Supreme Court should agree to hear the case and reverse the lower court’s decision as to the remaining statements. 

  • By allowing Trevi to sue over commentary that does not identify or single her out, the appeals court’s decision reintroduces group libel in Texas, which will chill news reporting in the public interest.
  • The article accurately summarized the well-known allegations against Trevi and is protected by the statutory third-party allegations rule, which is essential to a significant amount of journalism on matters of public concern.

Attorneys from Haynes and Boone LLP represented the Reporters Committee and numerous media organizations working or reporting in Texas: Advance Publications, Inc., Dallas Free Press, The E.W. Scripps Company, Fort Worth Report, Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst Corporation, The McClatchy Company, LLC, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, News/Media Alliance, Pro Publica, Inc., TEGNA Inc., and Texas Tribune.

Quote: “If not corrected, the lower court’s decision will discourage reporting about newsworthy allegations made by third parties against public figures and organizations — an important and routine task of journalists — by raising the specter that such reporting will lead to protracted, expensive defamation litigation.”

Update: On June 28, 2024, the Texas Supreme Court declined to review the case.

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