Court Stops Nigeria From Prosecuting Twitter Users: Activists | Freedom of press


A local rights group, along with dozens of Nigerians, went to the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice to fight the ban.

West African court has barred Nigerian government from ‘illegally’ prosecuting people who use Twitter, as it considers legal action launched by activists and journalists seeking to overturn the ban on the social media giant.

The authorities at the beginning of June Twitter suspended indefinitely, two days after the platform deleted a post from President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists, which Twitter said violated its rules. The Nigerian Attorney General further said those who defied the ban should be for follow-up, but did not provide any details as to which law would be invoked.

In response, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a local rights group, along with 176 other Nigerians, took legal action to fight the ban.

On Tuesday, a statement describing the decision to suspend operations of the hugely popular social media platform as an attempt to silence critics of the SERAP government citing the Economic Community of African States Court of Justice in the West (ECOWAS) claiming that it restricted the government to act against citizens or the media on the use of Twitter, pending a substantive decision on the central issue.

“The court listened to the objection very well,” SERAP said. “Any interference with Twitter is considered an inference with human rights, and it will violate human rights,” he added.

The claimants for the trial argued that the Twitter suspension “had intensified the crackdown on human rights and unlawfully restricted the rights of Nigerians and others to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom in the country ”.

The plaintiffs also urged the court to hold the Nigerian government accountable for violating “their basic human right and violating its international obligations” by banning Twitter.

The government’s decision sparked a immediate reaction among social media users and human rights activists, with #NigeriaTwitterBan and #KeepitOn on the platform as Nigerians used virtual private networks to access the site.

There was no immediate comment from the Nigerian government after Tuesday’s decision.

Nigerian Information Minister Lai Mohammed previously said the suspension had nothing to do with the deletion of Buhari’s tweet, but rather with “separatists inciting violence” online.

“Regulating social media is not about stifling press freedom. All we’re talking about is responsible use of these platforms, ”he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube were still accessible.

In 2021, Nigeria ranked 120th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) global press freedom ranking.





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