Reputation is the way you are viewed by people and by your community and the way people think of you. Good reputation is a great part of the human happiness.  It takes years of hard work, honesty, integrity, hundreds of compliments to build good reputation. It takes a lie written or spoken to destroy it all.  
   Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria guarantees freedom of expression. This right is also guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. However, the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression must take into consideration the right of other citizens to protect their reputation.
   According to Arne Tiselius, we live in a world where the distinction between true and false appears to become increasingly blurred by manipulation of facts, by exploitation of uncritical minds, and by the pollution of the language.  Sadly, misuse of information technology in amplifying and spreading lies could ruin anyone’s reputation.
  The good news is that there is a price to pay for dastardly ruining other peoples’ reputation. In Nigeria, some of the laws, which restrict the right to freedom of expression, include the law of sedition, the law relating to treason and treasonable felony, the Official Secret Act and the law of defamation. What appears to be a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, social or political discussion may otherwise lead to liability in law.
  Defamation is the general term for a legal claim involving injury to one’s reputation caused by false statements of fact and includes both libel and slander. The crux of a defamation claim is falsity. The courts have an important role to play in balancing the conflicting interests between freedom of expression and protection of reputation. In Benue Printing and Publishing Corp. v Gwagwada, the Supreme Court defined defamation as any imputation which may tend to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society generally, cut him off from society or expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule.
  In Nigeria, defamation is both a tort and a crime. The tort of defamation (civil defamation) is regulated by the rules of common law. Criminal defamation is provided for in the Criminal Code for the Southern Nigeria and the Penal Code for Northern Nigeria. Thus section 375 of the Criminal Code criminalises defamation. The burden of proof is placed on the plaintiff.
  Required elements of a defamation lawsuit include: A defamatory statement was made; The statement made was published in some fashion, meaning it was told to others either verbally or in writing; The statement was not true, and the person who published the statement knew that it was not true; The statement caused the victim harm or injury, emotionally or financially; and The statement did not fall under the privileged category.
  When a person is accused of defamation, the law looks at many factors. Some common defences to a claim of defamation may include:
Statements made in good faith – the person who made the statements reasonably believed that the statements were true.
Opinion – because opinions are considered subjective, and not necessarily false, they are not considered defamatory.
Verbal abuse – if a statement made is not to be taken literally or believed, such as name-calling in anger, it is not considered defamatory.
Unbelieved statement – if the person hearing the defamatory statement does not believe it, or does not take an interest in it, the statement is considered not to have harmed the victim’s reputation in any way.
No consent – the victim must not have given consent to the person making the statements, whether verbally or in writing.
Qualified privilege – refers to statements made that are considered important for public interest. Such statements may include statements made in official government reports, statements made by lower government officials, statements made to warn others, and published reviews that may be considered fair criticism.
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