Media Rights Agenda (MRA), has condemned what it described as “the apparent surreptitious blocking of three websites associated with #EndSARS protests in Nigeria,” describing the Federal Government’s action as that of a government “leaning towards extreme dictatorship”.
In a statement on Tuesday, MRA described the action as a brazen and unjustifiable violation of the right to freedom of expression of the operators of the websites and other Nigerians who get information from the platforms.
MRA named the affected websites as www.feministcoalition2020.com, www.endsars.com, and www.radioisiaq.com, noting that they “became inaccessible from Nigeria over the past few days but have remained accessible from other countries, a clear indication that they are being blocked only in Nigeria.”
In the statement by Idowu Adewale, MRA Communication Officer, the rights group contended that the blocking of the websites was illegal and a clear violation of the norms and standards established under international human rights law for the application of any limitation on the right to freedom of expression.
It said the blocking of websites was not authorised by any law in Nigeria, “no legitimate basis for such blocking has been established while the wholesale blocking of the websites cannot be a proportionate response to any offensive content that any of them may have published.”
Ms Chioma Nwaodike, Head of MRA’s Legal Department, noted in the statement that as a state that is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Nigeria is bound by Article 19 of the instrument, which requires that any restriction on the right to freedom of expression must be prescribed by law, pursue a legitimate aim, as well as necessary and proportional.
The statement noted that Nwaodike “accused the Nigerian government of going down a frightening path by adopting such a highhanded measure of maintaining an information blackout in a supposedly democratic country.”
She said it was “an effort to prevent citizens and other members of the public from receiving or having access to information that is critical of the government or that portrays the government in negative light.”
She added that ” it is a usual feature of governments that are leaning towards extreme dictatorship.
“If the operators of the websites have committed any offence, by blocking the websites without reference to the courts or the due process of law, the Nigerian government has constituted itself into an accuser, judge and executioner in violation of the rights to freedom of expression and fair hearing, guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution as well as regional and international human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a party.”