Experts (e.g Ewelukwa, 2004: 209; Malemi 1999:74,etc) are all agreedthat for a statement to be defamatory of a person,that statement must befalse and calculated to:(a) Lower him in the estimation of right-thinkingmen; or(b) Cause him to be shunned or avoided, or(c) Expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or(d) Conveys an imputation on him disparaging orinjurious to him inhis office, profession, calling, trade or business.(e) Injures his financial credit
Similarly, the Penal Code states in Section391, under Defamation, asfollows:Whoever by words either spoken orreproduced by mechanical means orintended to be read or signs or byrepresentations, makes or publishesany imputation concerning any person,intending to harm the reputationof such person, is said … to defame thatperson.
What is Criminal Defamation?Defamation can be at once a civil as well as acriminal act. Indeed boththe Criminal and Penal Codes haveprovisions on defamation. Section373 of the Criminal Code definesDefamatory matter as matter likely toinjure the reputation of any person in hisprofession or trade. Even adead person can be defamed, according toboth codes.
Section 375 of the Criminal codestipulates that any person whopublishes any defamatorymatter is guilty of amisdemeanor and is liableon conviction to imprisonment,fore knowledge that theoffendingmatter is false attractsimprisonment for two years.
the Penal Code stipulates inSection 392, that “Whoeverdefames another shall bepunished withimprisonment for a term,whichmay extend to two years orwith fine or with both”
What is the Purpose of theLaw of Defamation?The purpose of the law ofdefamation is to protect thereputation ofpeople resulting frominjurious statements, or actsby others.
Members of Society?”Of course, an importantcondition for the establishmentof defamation isthat the statement should besuch that lowers the plaintiff intheestimation of right – thinkingmembers of the societygenerally.
By excluding the twoextremes of the naïve andthose who may be toosensitive, the Supreme Courtseems to have arrived at thegeneral publicas constituting right –thinking members of society.
PublicationThe offending statementmust have been published.Publication meansthat the statement wascommunicated to a thirdparty, other than theplaintiff.
Another essential ingredient ofdefamation is that the offendingstatement must have amalicious intent. Malice is evilmotive or spite.If the plaintiff can prove theexistence of a maliciousintention, thedefence of fair comment by thedefendant will be defeated.
occurs, not by the naturalmeanings of thewords used, but by some kindof inference or connotation. If aplaintiffalleges innuendo, then he mustestablish that the particularmeaning ofthe word used refers to him andcan be understood as such.
What is UnintentionalDefamation?A person who suffersdefamation through anypublication can sue andcollect whether or not theoffensive matter as intendedto ridicule him.
If a person assents to apublication either expressly orimpliedly, then hehas no case if some people nowinterpret that publication to benegativeof him. It is more so if theordinary meaning of thepublished matter isnot derogatory.
What is Libel?Ewelukwa (2004:212) defineslibel as defamation by meansofwriting or by any otherpermanent form such asvideo tapes, pictures,was work, effigy etc.
The conditions for libel(a) The publication must be in writing(b) The publication must be false(c) The publication must be publishedto some other person asidefrom the plaintiff and the defendant.(d) The publication must refer to theplaintiff and must bedefamatory of him.(e) The publication must be by thedefendant.
What is Slander?Slander is defamation throughthe spoken word or gesture. It isnotgenerally actionable upon merepublication. However, there areinstances where slander couldbe actionable per se, that is,without proofof special damage.
They include:1. Allegation of a criminal offence punishable withimprisonment,such as theft, rape etc.2. Imputation or allegation of a contagious disease whichmaynecessitate the exclusion of the suffer from othermembers ofsociety e.g. AIDS, leprosy etc.3. Allegation of unchastely against a young woman.4. Imputation of incompetence or unfitness against aworkman,which can injure him in his trade, office, trade orprofession.
What is Vulgar Abuse?It has been pointed out bylawyers that many otherwiseslanderousstatements may be dismissedby the court as mere vulgarabuse.
Experts say that the court will examine theparticular circumstancesunder which the offensive words werespoken. The court will notdismiss the offence as mere vulgar abusewhere the words spokenalleges specific acts of wrong doing or acrime which will lead to theperson being shunned by the public orbeing arrested by the lawenforcement agents.
What are the Defences to Defamation?We shall now consider eight defences todefamation open to journalists,authors, publicists, publishers, etc.They are:1. Justification or truth2. Fair comment3. Privilege4. Consent to Publication5. Death of the Plaintiff6. Res Judicata7. Accord and satisfaction8. Innocent dissemination
Remedies for DefamationIf a case of defamation has been establishedand accepted by the court,then the plaintiff is entitled to one or acombination of the followingremedies.(a) Damages(b) Injunction, which may be interim,interlocutory or perpetual.(c) Publication of retraction or correction(d) Publication of apology and offer ofamends.