Internet trolling has become widespread amongst mobile phone users nowadays. Hardly do you come across a post from a celebrity, without finding at least one dissatisfied person in the comment section writing degrading things about their person. It has also become a norm to see various individuals releasing videos or statements aimed at scandalising a public person.
While this may seem like cruise catching, many fail to realise that this act amounts to an offence referred to as defamation under the Nigerian law.
What is Defamation/Defamatory matter?
Section 373 of the Criminal Code defines defamatory matter as matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation. Defamation need not be expressed only through spoken words, audible sounds or words written on any substance or object. It could be expressed directly or indirectly, through insinuation or irony.
Who can be defamed?
The law provides that any person can be defamed. It doesn’t matter whether at the time of publication of the defamatory matter, the person in question was dead or alive.
What is the punishment for defamation?
Defamation is a misdemeanour i.e. a minor wrong doing. Any one who publishes any defamatory matter is liable to be imprisoned for one year. If such person knows that the publication is false and still goes ahead with it, he/she is liable to be imprisoned for two years.
However, if a defamatory publication is made with an intent to extort money or any other property from an individual, such person who makes the publication would be guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for seven years.
Defamation only applies to false information or statements. If an information published for public benefit is true at the time it is made, it will not amount to a defamatory matter. Do ask any questions you might have below.
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