- October 28, 2016
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Category: Case Law Blog
Din v. African Newspapers Ltd  3 NWLR (Pt. 139) 392 at 408-409 paras. H-A, per Karibi-Whyte, J.S.C:
“The right to comment freely on matters of public interest is one of the fundamental rights of free speech guaranteed to the individual in our Constitution. It is so dear to the Nigerian and of vital importance and relevance to to the rule of law which we so dearly treasure for our personal freedom. It is conceded that the right to discuss matters of public concern does not confer liberty to make defamatory statements; however honestly made.”
Full Judgment is available here.
The above position further goes to preserve the fundamental right of freedom of speech constitutionally guaranteed. In this era of social media which presents people with the platform to comment on various matters of public interest to the notification and knowledge of many, the pronouncement of the Supreme Court becomes even more relevant. However, in exercising this qualified freedom of expression, one must bear in mind the last sentence which appears in the above statement of the law, to wit, ‘…the right to discuss matters of public concern does not confer liberty to make defamatory statements; however honestly made.’ Defamatory statements are statements capable of lowering a person in the estimation of right-thinking persons in the society; ridiculing a person’s personality or discrediting him. See the case of Ekong v. Otop  11 NWLR (Pt. 1419) 549 SC.
We have also seen the recent move by the Government to regulate the use of social media in a bid to tackle propagation of fake news.