Freedom of Expression and Fake News in Nigeria: Examining the implications under the 1999 Constitution with Comparative Lessons
Keywords:Constitution, Right, Freedom of Expression, News
Before now, concerns regarding news focused on traditional media (typically newspapers and broadcasters) and the role they played in controlling public information and sentiment. In recent times, the focus has shifted to the distribution of news on the internet and social media thereby heralding the era of fake news with its consequences on public information. At its most basic, fake news is the distribution online of false information disguised as legitimate news stories; its motive being to influence the public’s viewpoint or ideology over a particular issue. This paper examines the concept of freedom of expression under the 1999 Constitution with regard to spread of fake news by the social media through the internet. The paper also assesses the possibility of regulating fake news through legislation by making comparison with other jurisdictions. In doing this, the paper adopts doctrinal research methodology. It argues that, though, freedom of expression is entrenched and guaranteed by the Constitution and under International legal documents, there is no specific legal instrument providing against fake news or hate speech as a condition for the exercise of freedom of expression by the social media on the internet. This is a gap that should be filled with appropriate legislations. The paper therefore recommends amendment of the Constitution in this respect and concludes that tackling the menace of fake news in Nigeria requires amendment of existing laws on freedom of expression providing severe penalties against the media and individuals that post and spread fake news as obtains in other jurisdictions.