Striking a Balance: Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Hate Speech and Offensive Remarks

76 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2017  

Rahman Apalara

Faculty of Law, University of Lagos

Date Written: September 11, 2017


Freedom of expression is an important fundamental right because the right to speak one’s mind freely on important issues in society, access information and hold the powers that beto account plays a vital role in the healthy development process of any society. At the heart of the hateful and offensive speech restriction is the tension between individual liberty and social good or the collective interest of the public. Hate speech touches on contested issues of dignity, free expression, liberty and democracy. Thus, there is a conflict between the right to freely advocate however distasteful the idea may be and the right to be free from prejudice and discrimination. In some circumstances, speech is restrained and the right to non-discrimination is preferred over free speech. It is in that sense that the title of this work “Striking a Balance” is justified. This paper uses philosophical, practical and constitutional facts to illustrate the difficulty in striking the appropriate balance between the right to freedom of expression and other legally prohibited speech or remark. The paper will explore extensively the complexities brought about by the restriction of the right to freely express in this context against the backdrop of the provisions of the Constitution, international instruments and the approach of national and international Courts.

Keywords: Freedom of Expression, Limitation of Free Speech, Hate Speech, Offensive Speech

Suggested Citation

Apalara, Rahman, Striking a Balance: Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Hate Speech and Offensive Remarks (September 11, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Rahman Apalara (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, University of Lagos ( email )

08175478796 (Phone)

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