Media Law: Course Syllabus

COURSE COMPACT

Faculty: Communication and Media Studies                          Department: Journalism & Media Studies

Course Code: CMS 401                                          Unit(s): 2          Semester: First

Course Title: Media Law

Lecturer:                                                       Programme: B.Sc.

(A). BRIEF OVERVIEW OF COURSE

This course primarily is designed to explore key legal issues mass communication professionals are likely to confront in the society. It exposes students to the legal framework within which mass media institutions operate in Nigeria. It further teaches the development and constitutional growth of freedom of expression in Nigeria, including the privileges and restraints  affecting  the  mass  media, such as  libel,  sedition,  privacy,  contempt,  obscenity, copyright, etc. and government regulation. At the completion of this course, students will understand why knowledge of media law is essential for a successful career in mass communication. They will be able to apply legal reasoning to evaluate legal conflicts, and to assert legally protected rights to gather, prepare, and disseminate information. They will not only recognize the many legal pitfalls that face professional communicators but also to understand the legal framework that is shaping the convergence of old media industries and the emergence of new ones.

(B). COURSE OBJECTIVES/GOALS

By the end of this course, students will have learned:

  1. Legal issues affecting the mass media industries and other communicators
  2. Legal reasoning and analytical skills
  3. Abilities to write and report on legal issues
  4. Ability to articulate and assert the rights of a media professional and of a nonprofessional speaker or writer
  5. Understand key concepts in media law such as prior restraint, defamation, copyright, obscenity, indecency, and journalistic privilege
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of Nigerian courts, including how to read and report on judicial decisions.
  7. Basic tenets and application of Freedom of Information Act
  8. Privileges and restraints affecting the mass media, such as libel, sedition, privacy, contempt, obscenity, copyright, intellectual property, source confidentiality, prior restraint, etc.
  1. Limitations on freedom of speech and press
  2. How to identify activities that undermine free flow of information

(C). METHOD OF LECTURE DELIVERY

  1. Lectures
  2. Quizzes
  3. Assignments
  4. Practical Classroom Sessions

(D). COURSE OUTLINE

1. Introduction

Defining key terminologies

Introductory overview of the course

2. The Nigerian Legal System

Sources of law

The legal profession

Court system

How to read and report on judicial decisions

3. Court Restrictions

Open court rule

Reporting restrictions in court

Industrial tribunals

Access to information

Gaining access

Challenging court decisions on access

4. Key Concepts in Media Law

Prior restraint

Defamation

Copyright

Obscenity

Indecency

Journalistic privilege

Parliamentary privilege and contempt

Right to privacy

5. Breach of Confidence

Obligation of confidence

What is confidential?

Defences

6. Contempt of Court

What is contempt of court?

Types of contempt

Punishment for contempt of court

Strict liability rule

Defences

Injunctions

7. Libel

Principle of libel

Libel and slander

Libel and malicious falsehood

Defamation

Plantiff’s case

Defences against libel claims

Procedure, injunctions and damages

8. Criminal Libel

Distinction between civil and criminal libel

Criminal libel in newspapers

Defending criminal libel actions

Penalties

Blasphemous libel and seditious libel

9. Copyright

Copyright works

Who owns copyright

Infringement

Duration

Remedies

10. Journalist Sources

Legal implications and restraints

11. Obscenity, Indecent Displays and Racial Hatred

Definition of obscenity

Deprave and corrupt

Search, seizure and forfeiture

Public good defence

Indecent displays

12. Freedom of Information Act

Defining key concepts (what is freedom of information, freedom of information act, data protection)

Basic Knowledge: An overview of FOIA in Nigeria, its structure and core provisions including the definition of “recorded information”

Organisations FOIA applies to and the Codes of Practice

Exemptions of FOIA in Nigeria

Determining what is personal data and special category personal data in the context of FOI requests

FOIA in other Countries (comparative analysis)

How to make an FOI request

When request can be turned down

What to do if request is turned down

Does the FOIA Work in Nigeria?

13. Elections and Parliament

Broadcasting controls

Statements about candidates

Freedom of speech

14. Class Activities

Practical exercises and case studies

 

(E). RECOMMENDED TEXTS

Overbeck, W. G., Belma, G. & Shepard, J.M. (2019). Major Principles of Media Law: 2019 Edition. Boston: Cengage Learning

(F). IMPORTANT LINKS

Why Study Media Law?

Importance of Media Law and Ethics in the Industry

Three Types of Contempt

Contempt of Courts and its Types and Punishment

 

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The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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