…Insist Sharing Information on Twitter, Other Social Media Networks Breaks No Law …It Has a Perilous Impact on Freedom of Expression, the Press…Whistleblowers Coalition A coalition of 27 leaders of civil society organisations that work on governance, corruption, elections, digital rights and inclusion, women’s rights and journalism in Nigeria, have taken the gauntlet to defy
…Insist Sharing Information on Twitter, Other Social Media Networks Breaks No Law
…It Has a Perilous Impact on Freedom of Expression, the Press…Whistleblowers Coalition
A coalition of 27 leaders of civil society organisations that work on governance, corruption, elections, digital rights and inclusion, women’s rights and journalism in Nigeria, have taken the gauntlet to defy the ban imposed on the microblogging site, Twitter by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying, “We Will keep Tweeting”.
In a statement released in Lagos on Tuesday, the coalition say, “We strongly support statements released by various civil society organisations and other stakeholders, condemning the suspension of the microblogging platform, Twitter, in Nigeria, as this represents a continued assault on the civic space and anti-democratic clampdown on free speech.
“We are also aware of the statement credited to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, threatening to arrest anyone who continues to tweet after the announced suspension.
“We, therefore, wish to categorically say that we, as individuals, and our organisations, do not know any law that the act of sharing information breaks, and will continue to use Twitter, other social media platforms, and other media channels, to share information and engage with citizens.
“We note that Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) makes it impossible to convict any person for a criminal offence if that offence is not defined and its penalty not prescribed in a written law. On the power of Section 36(12) which protects a fundamental human right, we therefore note and state unequivocally that the Attorney General’s statement threatening to prosecute citizens using Twitter contravenes the Constitution and is a violation of human rights and an utter abuse of power.”
Quoting the epic lines of Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny,” the coalition assert, “We stand with Nigerians who continue to exercise their fundamental human rights, especially as we will be celebrating Democracy Day on Saturday, June 12.”
Those who signed the statement include Gbenga Sesan, executive director, Paradigm Initiative (PIN), Yemi Adamolekun, executive director, EiE Nigeria, Adebayo Raphael, Centre for Liberty, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Cheta Nwanze (@chxta), Chioma Agwuegbo, TechHerNG, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Concerned Nigerians. Cynthia Mbamalu, director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa and Deaf Women Aloud Initiative (DWAI).
Others are Dorothy Njemanze, executive director, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (DNF), Edetean Ojo, executive director, Media Rights Agenda, Hamzat Lawal, Connected Development [CODE] / Follow The Money, Joshua Olufemi, founder, Dataphyte, Idayat Hassan, executive director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Kolawole Oluwadare, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Lex Initiative for Rights Advocacy and Development (LIRAD), Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, Centre for Impact Advocacy (CiA), Nana Nwachukwu, Nelson Olanipekun, Citizen Gavel, Olabukunola Williams, executive director, Education as a Vaccine, Oluwatosin Alagbe, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Raising New Voices Initiative, Seun Onigbinde, director, BudgIT, Tunde Aremu, Udy Akpan, executive director, Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) and Y.Z Y’au, executive director, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
Speaking in the same vein, the Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) also condemns in its entirety the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, by the federal government, saying it is a violation of the fundamental human right of expression as guaranteed by Section 39, of the 1999 Constitution.
The coalition insists, “The ban on Twitter has a perilous impact on the freedom of expression of Nigerian citizens and the press on statutory level. 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.
“These consistent patterns of attempt by the government to subvert the individuals and media organisations calls for a query about government intent to commit to nourishing democracy in Nigeria. It also calls for a deep interrogation of how the government in Nigeria flouts multiple treaty obligations to which Nigeria is a signatory.
“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, not to mention other United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) protocols are just a handful of international instruments that the country has committed to but constantly flouts with regards to its obligation to promote a free press at home.”
The coalition contends that, “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.
It explained further that, “Aside from the law that supports freedom of the press and freedom of expression, in 2019, PTCIJ documented 27 laws that constrain press freedom embedded in various laws, including the Penal Act, Criminal Code Act, Official Secret Act, and National Broadcasting Commission Act among others.
“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. While this is a brutal violation of the legislative processes, it is also 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.”
While imploring the government to retrace its steps in constraining the freedom of the press and expression , the coalition says, “This insensitive action of the government has further thrown the nation into a state of enormous disbelief and has increased the level of distrust between the government and its citizens.”
Organisations which endorsed the statement include African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Civic Media Lab, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Daily Trust Newspaper, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), International Press Centre (IPC), HEDA Resource Centre, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and OrderPaper. Others are Paradigm Initiative (P.I), Premium Times (PT), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Sahara Reporters (SR), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), The Cable and Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).
General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye had earlier revealed that his Church would not be complying with the Federal Government’s directive that Nigerians should no longer use Twitter.
In a series of tweets on his personal Twitter handle, Adeboye wrote; “The Redeemed Christian Church of God is domiciled in more than 170 Nations & Territories. The tweets here are in accordance to Article 19 of the UN universal declaration of Human Rights.”
“The Redeemed Christian Church of God is domiciled in more than 170 Nations & Territories. The tweets here are in accordance to Article 19 of the UN universal declaration of Human Rights.”
— Pastor Adeboye (@PastorEAAdeboye) June 7, 2021
The General Overseer of Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor William Folorunso Kumuyi, has also violated the goverment’s ban on Twitter.
Giving reasons on Monday, the man of God said his tweets shared on his page are targeted at a global audience in more than 5 continents and over 100 nations.
Kumuyi, who said the contents are shared from any of these locations, tweeted, “In view of the Twitter ban in Nigeria, please note that the content shared on this handle is targeted at a global audience in more than 5 continents and over 100 nations and we share the content from any of these locations.”
The Nigerian Government had on Friday suspended Twitter indefinitely in the country. The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, attributed the suspension to what the government called “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
The Minister, in the statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Segun Adeyemi, said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.
The directive has been largely criticised with many saying it was an abridgement on the rights to freedom of expression and the curtailment of press freedom.