Libel and the Media
One despicable issue that has over the years taken the industrial time of both medieval and contemporary media practitioners revolve on how possible to avert the mention of libel in their ceaseless and priceless publications.
This intractable issue, no doubt, has driven the print media to guard their information intended publications like the only egg of the fowl while exercising its constitutional functions of education, entertainment, information and cultural correlation of the parts of the society.
These essential and cardinal functions have further been evaluated by the engagement of well tested and proven scholars exhumed from different academic strata to man and decisively checkmate unintended libelous words and statements that may find the way into print media page.
This, to an extent, unveils the unwillingness of the print media to romance the tides of libel action. Again, the writ of corrigendum and apology further indexes the print media preparedness to create the enabling environment to work and protect
the integrity and privacy of the government and every right-thinking member of the society generally.
However, the constitutional rights of the mass media especially the print keeps aglow for it to keep its heterogeneous audience on the quivive on the goodies and dangers of the environment. This is why the gate keeping exercise â€œ has remained a barometer to access editors and their cohorts.â€
Sequel to this, one is made to observe that the constitutional rights of the media to inform, educate and entertain memberâ€™s of the society do not approve the application of malice, hatred and unjust attack in the art of news reporting and publications.
Legally, the law of defamation exists to guide the media and protect the reputation of the individual in both his moral and professional reputation from unjustified attack. The law, as it is, refers to a set of rules by which citizens of a state regulate their conduct in relation to their fellow citizens and to the state. It is wide, severe and punitive.
This is why it has become imperative for the journalist, the publisher and distributor of newspapers – indeed for everyone that earns his living with words to be conscious of the perils associated with the law of defamation.
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Viewed from legal prism and pinnacle, libel in general represents written and recorded firm in a firm or less permanent nature like photography, cartoon, statue, picture, caricature, moving cinematography, television, pictures or images, documentary, etc designed to expose an individual to hatred, ridicule or contempt, cause him to be shunned or avoided, disparage him in his office, profession or trade and again, lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of the society generally.
In view of this, the law recognizes in every man a right to have estimation in which he stands in the opinion of others unaffected by false and defamatory statements and imputations.
However, the emergence of libellous remarks in any given publication reveals an index of malice contrary to the harmony talked about by the law as the seeming rapport between the government, media and the general public. Media vigilance arising from constant gate keeping has for sometime now remained futile in what media kith and kin in the learned world described as innocuous statement. A legal school of thought sees innocuous statement as one embracing more than one meaning; a statement that is innocently tailored but capable of defamatory meaning by virtue of the surrounding circumstances.
Again, ecclesiastics school of thought differ from the legal school of thought in that it consider as distinguishing defamation from injurious falsehood, innuendo, abuse or vulgar words that may be defamatory in nature.
Despite this glaring differences, the fear of uncertainty encapsulating libel actions like cost of damages, the circumstantial nature of innuendo and lack of standard measurement to establish the worth of a manâ€™s good reputation or at least, the extent to which it was in danger of being libelled by a false statement of unfair criticism) ushers danger to careless and provocative publications. Libel, although, not much more permanent in character, bites more in harming the reputation of the affected plaintiff.
Libel, of course, manifests in the form of criminal, blasphemous, seditious and obscenity. These branches of libel constitute a rock of headache to any media outfit that hubnubs with reports devoid of fairness and justification and objectivity.
Believing the fact, in every wrong there is a corresponding remedy basically to avert injuria sine damno a media outfit so caught in the web of libelous act can seek redress by applying the principle of fair comment, justification, rolled-up-plea, absolute privilege, consent or volenti non fit injuria etc.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this research work is limited to the Nigerian News Media covering both print and electronic media in the industry. However the principles defined in this study may be well applicable in some other cases than the set target.
- STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The problem that lead to the study of Libel and News Media are numerous
among which are of it is stated below.
The basic problem the media arises from having access to some information protected by the government. Media practitioners do not have access to some information and thereby give false report of such information in some cases to the general public.
This study will identify the problems and suggest some solutions to it.
- RESEARCH QUESTION
These are the following question that may arise in the course of this research.
- Statistical information relating to the frequency and outcome of libel experience (ranging from letters before action through settlement to cases decided by jury verdict) over the preceding five years;
- The procedures used to check manuscripts to minimize libel risks; and
- Financial and insurance arrangements.
LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The following are the limitation that hinders the study of this research work;
1.Â Financial Constraint:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â There is not enough fund to fuel the study of this
research work. The researcher has access to a very little source of fund.
- Time Constraints: Due to the limited time available to carry out this research work, it is not possible to carry out the research extensively as anticipated by the researcher.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
- JOURNALIST: A journalist collects and disseminates information about current events, people, trends, and issues. His or her work is acknowledged as journalism.
- REPORTERS: Reporters are one type of journalist; they create reports as a profession for broadcast or publication in mass media such as newspapers, television, radio, magazines, documentary film, and the Internet. Reporters find sources for their work, their reports can be either spoken or written, and they are often expected to report in the most objective and unbiased way to serve the public good. A columnist is a journalist who writes pieces that appear regularly in newspapers or magazines.
- MASS MEDIA: Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies, including the Internet, television, newspapers, and radio, which are used for mass communications, and to the organizations which control these technologies.
- A PRINTING PRESS: A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an Â inkedsurface resting upon a Â print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. Typically used for texts, the invention and Â spread of the printing press are widely regarded as the most influential