The entrenchment of Right of Expression as a fundamental human right in Nigeria could be traced to the 1960 Independence Constitution and those that followed it. The Independence Constitution of 1960 and the Republican Constitution of  1963 have provisions for the protection of fundamental human rights. The 1979 and the 1999 constitutions went further by providing a bill of right. This entrenchment of human right provisions in our constitutions was aimed at creating a society which protects political freedom as well as the social and economic well-being of Nigerians. However, despite the guarantee of fundamental rights and liberties in the Nigerian constitutions since 1960, the country has had the misfortune of military interruption in its polity. This had profound and far reaching effects on the promotion and protection of democratic values such as freedom of expression among Nigerians. This study examines the legal framework within which freedom of expression is practiced in Nigeria due to that fact that concepts such as freedom of expression are subject to various philosophical interpretations. It gives insight into the genesis of right of expression in the modern jurisprudence and provides a proper conceptual framework of human right from which freedom of expression is derivable. The study also examines the judicial attitudes in Nigeria in interpreting the subject matter. Furthermore, some limitations to right to expression which are premised in substantive and procedural laws are also considered. The practical relevance of social justice in the enforcement of this right in Nigerian also forms part of the study.





Whenever and wherever the question of human right is discussed, there is always a clear disagreement as to its actual meaning. The only measure of agreement, however, lies in the understanding of those rights which are recognized and protected by a particular legal system. In this regard, it has also become apparent that there are other rights some prefer to call the privileges which are not recognized and protected. It is this approach that has led to the distinction between fundamental human rights on the one hand, directive principles of state policy on the other. The one is guaranteed by the constitution and enforceable while the other is essentially non-justifiable and unenforceable.

Freedom of expression as fundamental human right goes to the root of human civilization and enlightenment. This has been affirmed universally that, every person has the right to seek, receive and impact information without interference

Today, virtually every social covenant1 acknowledges the fundamental nature of this right and asserts the right to freedom of speech. It is well known that even state with the most widely political, economics, and social policies find it necessary to recognize the right.

The fact that the rights of expression can neither be trample upon nor truncated either by persons or authorities shows that it is so fundamental to existence. As an author put it, whoever must over throw the liberty of a nation just begin by subduing freeness of speech

Constitutionally, section 36 of the 1979 constitution (now section 39 of the (1999 constitution), stated that every citizen has the fundamental of information, ideas, and opinions, including the right to own, establish and operate any school or institution for imparting information, ideas and opinion.

Section 223 of the constitution clearly out-lines the role the press thus, the radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all time be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people. The role of a responsible press should play in any policy, irrespective of the ideological foundation on which it is based, or the ownership structure of the universal conception that freedom of press and expression are so fundamental that the law tends to obstruct any of the two ideas, cannot be properly so called.

Benjamine, Franklin, “Freedom of Speech’’ (Textbook Company, Skokies, illonis, 198


Every person is accorded the freedom of expression including the freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impact ideas and information without my interference. For impacting ideas, holding opinion and information, it is necessary that the individual should be have the right to any media of his choice.

The freedom of expression can therefore be exercised orally of in writing through the print as well as electronic media. For the proper exercise of the right subsection
(1) of section 39 of the 1999 constitution has extended to the ownership or the establishment and operation of any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas, and opinion to the public,

This right can be exercised through several ways. A person may chose to express his ideas and opinion or conceal the information he obtained by any means available to him. The constitution has remained salient over the issues to the means to obtain any information, it does not place any restriction or the acquisition of any information either with respect to the concept “expression” used in the section 39 of the constitution. Expression can be effected through variety of ways; it can be done through sign or gesture.

The right to receive information generally is a negative one in that, it is difficult to prevent people from receiving particular ideas. As far as the functions of government is concerned, this right become a cornerstone of a positive form of obligation in the part of the public informed about the true state of affairs as well as the working of government and everything which is considered necessary to keep the public informed. This is considered necessary for the functioning of democracy as to render the government accountable to the people.

The ideas and opinion which permitted any person to hold may relate or touch or any subject matter or the society, it may border or immoral, political ethical, moral or immoral religious or ethnical issues.

By the above background it can be discerned that there is no separate right of the press from that of private individuals. It is in respect of the above that the right to owe and establish any media for the dissemination of ideas and information is accorded.