Amnesty International, 69 other CSOs seek immediate reversal of Twitter ban

*Notes, NBC now an instrument of attack on human rights

*Say ban, stage rehearsal of plan to regulate social media

Amnesty International and 69 civil society organisations, CSOs, in Nigeria have asked the Federal Government to immediately rescind the suspension of Twitter and withdraw the threat to prosecute anyone using it in the country.

In a statement jointly signed by the organisations Sunday, Amnesty International and the local CSOs also asked the government to withdraw the directive to broadcast stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts, while also calling for an end to widespread impunity for human rights violations, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, including online, access to information and media freedom.

They equally urged the international community, including the UN and African Union to publicly condemn the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and put pressures on the Federal Government to reverse the decision.

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Some of the CSOs include Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Legal Defence and Assistance Project -LEDAP, CLEEN Foundation, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, AFRICMIL, and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, among others.

The statement read:  ‘’We, the undersigned civil society organizations are concerned about the repression and escalating crackdown on human rights by the Nigerian government, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.

‘’We strongly condemn the arbitrary and unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, by the authorities, and the resulting restrictions on the human rights of people, as well as the threat to prosecute anyone using Twitter in Nigeria.

‘’We also condemn the ‘directive’ issued by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for all broadcast stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts.

‘’On Friday, 4 June, the authorities through the Ministry of Information and Culture, announced a ban on Twitter in Nigeria. The authorities also directed Internet Service Providers, ISPs, in Nigeria to block access to Twitter.

‘’Media houses in Nigeria were also directed by the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission to deactivate their Twitter accounts. The suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian authorities followed the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial tweet by the microblogging app.

‘’The Nigerian authorities have also set plans in motion to force social media platforms to register in Nigeria and comply with local regulations before they are licensed to operate.

‘’Social media platforms have helped Nigerians to receive information, impart same, hold useful conversations, and hold the Nigerian authorities to account. A clear example is how social media was used to drive police accountability in the #EndSARs protests last year.

‘’We are concerned about an alarming backsliding on human rights across Nigeria as the Federal Government and State authorities continue to use the criminal justice system and repression to silence peaceful dissent, while failing to ensure accountability for violations of rights.

‘’The Nigerian authorities have continued to propose laws to regulate the social media, and restrict the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom, including through legislative bills popularly known as the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ and ‘The Social Media Bill’ which both provide severe punitive sanctions such as the death penalty in some cases, for social media users convicted of “crimes” provided under them.

‘’The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

‘’We, therefore, call on the Nigerian authorities to immediately rescind the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and withdraw the threat to prosecute anyone using Twitter in the country; immediately withdraw the directive to broadcast stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts; and end widespread impunity for human rights violations, in particular the rights to freedom of expression including online, access to information and media freedom.

‘’We also urge the international community, including the UN and the African Union to publicly condemn the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to reverse the decision.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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