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When false publications may amount to criminal libel

In recent times, there has been an increase in the arrest and arraignment of persons alleged to have published false and misleading information against public figures. The first of these was that of a blogger who was arrested, arraigned and subsequently remanded in prison in connection to publication relating to a cleric. Since then there have been more of such incidents, including journalists of main stream media outlets. Understandably, these arrests have attracted scrutiny from the public. While some have condemned what they see as highhandedness on the part of the complainants who in most cases are elected government officials, some have argued that the right to freedom of speech comes with a responsibility to keep within the law and that anyone who fails to keep within accepted boundaries must be subjected to the law. However, most notably has been the perspective that the complainants should simply have filed civil actions against those they claim to have peddled wrong and injurious information concerning them. Those who hold this view argue, albeit wrongly, that such false and injurious publications give rise only to a right of action in a civil claim. It is for this reason that I intend to briefly highlight the fact that the publication of false and misleading information can give rise to criminal prosecution. In doing so, it is not my intention to validate the various prosecutions that are ongoing or to suggest that such prosecutions are always the best way of dealing with wrongful and misleading publications. Rather, it is my aim to draw the attention of stakeholders, particularly members of the fourth estate of the realm, to the fact that certain actions may bring them on a collision course with the law so that they may accordingly be guided in the exercise of their profession. 

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Police bust criminal hide out in Imo 

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