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2 Int'l J. Advanced Legal Stud. & Governance 75 (2011)
Right to Freedom of Expression and the Law of Defamation in Nigeria

handle is hein.journals/ijalsg2 and id is 75 raw text is: 








               RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND
                 THE LAW OF DEFAMATION IN NIGERIA

                                  Imo J. Udofa
                       Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law
                    University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria

                                  ABSTRACT
        Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria guarantees freedom of
        expression as afundamental right. This right is also guaranteed under the United
        Nations Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights
        instruments. Provisions are also made in the Constitution and the respective
        International Instruments for restriction to, and derogation from this right. This
        study examined the extent to which the law of defamation has restricted freedom
        of expression in Nigeria and the role of the courts in balancing the two conflicting
        rights and interests. It was concluded that the legal requirements for proving civil
        defamation and the availability of defences have made it difficult for this tort to
        impose any meaningful restriction on the right to freedom ofexpression in Nigeria.
        However, criminal defamation and the offence of sedition are serious
        encroachments on freedom of expression and should be reviewed and reformed
        or expunged from the statute books.
        Keywords: Freedom of expression, Law of defamation, Constitution, Human right

                               INTRODUCTION
Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights, which are universally
recognised and protected. Indeed, the Constitutions of most countries of the world,
including Nigeria1, have expressly provided for the protection of this right because
of its importance and relevance to the enhancement of personal liberty and democracy.
The right to freedom of expression is also protected under the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and the various regional Instruments and Conventions on human
rights, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights2. Obligations
and duties are imposed on the State or its agencies and on individuals to protect and
promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.
        However, the right to freedom of expression, like most other rights, is not
absolute. There are recognised restrictions and exceptions to this right; one of which
is to be found in the law of defamation. Thus, the enjoyment of the right to freedom
of expression must take into consideration the right of other citizens to protect their
reputation. The courts therefore have an important role to play in balancing the
conflicting interests between freedom of expression and protection of reputation.
This article aims at examining the legal and constitutional guarantee of the right to
freedom of expression in Nigeria and the extent to which the law of defamation has
restricted the enjoyment of this right. The effectiveness of the Nigerian courts in
striking an acceptable balance between the two conflicting rights and interests in
this regard is also examined.
International Journal of Advanced Legal Studies and Governance, Vol.2, No. 1, April 2011  75

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