Four major western nations and the European Union (EU) on Saturday condemned the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter’s operations and the country’s plan to impose registration requirements on other social media platforms in Nigeria.
The EU and the four countries – the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, and the Republic of Ireland – issued a joint statement through their diplomatic missions in Nigeria expressing their disappointment over the Nigerian government’s action late Saturday.
The joint statement added to the growing condemnation which the ban on Twitter and move to impose licensing requirements on other social media in Nigeria has received since it was announced by Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, on Friday.
In the joint statement shared via their separate Twitter handles on Saturday, the diplomatic missions expressed their support for human rights of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy.
According to them, the rights applied both online and offline.
They added that banning the “systems” that promote such rights would only “inhibit” access to information and commerce at a time Nigeria needed to “foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions” and share vital information during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union, the Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States of America, convey our disappointment over the government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirement for other social media.
“We strongly support the fundamental human rights of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline. Banning systems of expression is not the answer. These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital info in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the statement read.
The missions added that “The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication to accompany the concerted efforts of Nigeria’s citizens in fulsome dialogue toward unity, peace and progress.”
Pledging to always support Nigeria, they stated that as “Nigeria’s partners”, they “stand ready to assist in achieving these goals.”
The joint statement came on Saturday after some of the diplomatic missions had issued separate statements criticising the Nigerian government’s action.
UK minister also speaks
The UK’s Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, also expressed concerns over the Twitter suspension in a tweet on Saturday.
“I am concerned that the Government of Nigeria has suspended Twitter. We hope that all Nigerians are able to enjoy their full rights to freedom of expression, and do so responsibly,” his tweet read.
Nigeria’s federal government had on Friday suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the social media giant deleted a controversial tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari which it said violated its rules.
Apart from banning Twitter in Nigeria, the federal government also “directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”
Despite the numerous backlash this decision has received, the government has since doubled down on the crackdown with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, saying defaulters of the order would be charged to court.
Many lawyers have however told PREMIUM TIMES that the threat by Mr Malami lacked legal basis.
The latest ban of Twitter is believed by many to be part of a wider clampdown on civic space by the Buhari administration which had repeatedly stated its intention to regulate social media despite opposition by many Nigerians.
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