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Twitter Ban: Professional bodies threaten to drag FG before AU, UN

The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC) have joined the list of organisations which take deep exceptions to the recent ban on the operations of Twitter, the global microblogging site, by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Consequent on their disaffection with the unyielding posture of the Federal Government on the ban, the two bodies have resolved to lodge formal complaints on the ban with the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN).

While siting the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet as adopted in 2018 as reference point, the two professional bodies describe the ban by the FG as a violation of the right of citizens to freedom of expression and access to information.

In a statement on Monday, the organisation also cited the Declaration of Principles, which frowned upon states’ interference with the rights of individuals to seek information through any means of communication and upon removal, blocking or filtering of content, unless such interference was justifiable and compatible with international human rights law and standards.

The organisations also noted that the Government’s claim on the persistent use of the Twitter platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence is not only unsubstantiated but is clearly bogus and illogical.

“The pertinent questions here are: who is the government accusing of using the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence? Is it the owners of Twitter that are posting such tweets? Is it foreigners using the platform for such activities? Or is it all Nigerians who are on Twitter or some of those Nigerians who use Twitter? The Government needs to be specific on this.

“If some Nigerians on Twitter are using it in a manner that displeases the Government, how is banning Twitter for all Nigerians, in contravention of international norms an appropriate response? And if the government is convinced that people should not be allowed to post whatever they like on Twitter, no matter how divisive, hateful or inciting, why was the Government itself so angry when Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, which it adjudged to be in violation of this same principle?” the statement read.

Executive Director of the IPC, Lanre Arogundade, emphasised that while the government appeared to be in a fight against Twitter, it was actually acting against its citizens by infringing on their constitutionally guaranteed human rights.

He said that the threat by the Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to prosecute anyone that disobeys the ban is indicative of the fact that if this government has its way all social media platforms would be shut down because they have become veritable avenues for citizens to express their disaffection with its acts of mis-governance.

The organisations called on the Federal Government to comply with internationally agreed norms and standards and rescind the ban, which had put Nigeria in danger of becoming a rogue nation constantly violating international human rights and international laws.

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