The Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government, describing the action as a violation of the fundamental human right of expression as guaranteed by Section 39, of the 1999 Constitution. It implored the government to retrace its steps in constraining the freedom of the press and expression.
CWPPF said in a statement issued June 8, 2021 that the ban on Twitter has a perilous impact on the freedom of expression of Nigerian citizens and the press on statutory level. It added: “Worsening these threats is the introduction of two prohibitive legislative proposals – the Hate Speech and the Social Media Bills, which until recently were under consideration in the National Assembly.” It said these consistent patterns of attempts by the government to subvert the individuals and media organisations call for a query about government intent to commit to nourishing democracy in Nigeria and also calls for a deep interrogation of how the government in Nigeria flouts multiple treaty obligations to which Nigeria is a signatory’’.
The Coalition cited Articles 19 of the Universal Declarations on Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, as well as Sections 65 and 66 of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol, and other United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) protocols which it said are just a handful of international instruments that the country committed to but constantly flouts with regards to its obligation to promote a free press at home.
CWPPF said: “The ban of Twitter exposes a new regime of regulations on platforms on OTT use through the National Communication Commission. It is unbelievable that a government that gathered the goodwill of the people on a promise of change has now stooped so low to ban a platform it used as a campaign tool to harness power; what level of brassiness can the government further go?.”
The group said aside from the law that supports freedom of the press and freedom of expression, PTCIJ in 2019 documented 27 laws that constrain press freedom embedded in various laws, including the Penal Code Act, Criminal Code Act, Official Secrets Act, and National Broadcasting Commission Act among others.
It noted with concern that: “Irrespective of this, the National Broadcasting Commission issued a press release asking all broadcasting stations to desist from using the microblogging platform as a source of information gathering and has threatened to prosecute citizens who continued to use the platform.”
It added that CWPPF considered government’s action as a brutal violation of the legislative processes and a violation of the spirit of Section 22 of the 1999 constitution which mandates the media to disseminate information and hold the government accountable to the public.
This insensitive action of the government, according to the group, has further thrown the nation into a state of enormous disbelief and has increased the level of distrust between the government and its citizens.