Freedom of Expression and the press (Introduction)

  • Introduction

Freedom of expression and the press is very important and fundamental to the development of a civilized society. Freedom of expression has been seen as a pre-condition to the realization of other rights, the violation of which are made known by expression.

The importance of this right is provided for in many international, regional and national instruments/laws. It is necessary for the participation of people in the decision-making process. The present of the international court on human rights remarked that:

“Freedom of expression is a cornerstone upon with the very existence of a democratic society rests. It is indispensable for the formation of public opinion. It is also a condition sine qua non for the development of political parties, trade unions and scientific and cultural societies and, in general, those who wish to influence the public. It represents in short, the means that enables the community, when expressing its opinion, to be sufficiently informed. It is the condition of social life that allows members of the society to reach the highest level of personal development and the optimum achievement of democratic values.[1]


Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution provides as follows:

  • Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
  • Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.

Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfillment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose whatsoever.


Generally, freedom of expression includes the freedom by every person to:

  1. hold opinions
  2. Receive and impart information and ideas
  • Orally, in writing, in print, art from through the media and other mediums. It is generally recognized that the rights may be restricted in the interest of others and the society[2] in which we provided under the “Limitations to freedom of expression and the press”.


[1] Advisory opinion OC 5/85 8 EHRR, 18 (1985)

[2] Kehinde M. Mowoe, Constitutional law in Nigeria 2018 Malthouse Law Books