Global human rights group, Amnesty International (AI), yesterday launched an online campaign geared towards pressuring the Federal Government to lift its indefinite suspension of Twitter in the country. The organisation said the suspension was unlawful and a further attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to crack down on freedom of expression. According to the group, Nigerians who have grievances against the government have already been driven off the streets following the bloody crackdown on thousands of youths during the #EndSARS protests that took place last year.
The body urged all wellmeaning Nigerians to send an emails to Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), urging them to end the violations of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom. The group said in a statement on its website: “It’s time to end the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and let President Buhari know that Nigerians’ voices matter. When in the streets, peaceful protesters are met with violent reprisal from the Nigerian authorities, and now their online voices are being silenced as well.
“Legislative bills popularly known as the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ and ‘The Social Media Bill’ both of which provide severe punitive sanctions such as the death penalty in some cases for social media users convicted of ‘crimes’ provided under them are also signs of the regression in the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of the press.” The Federal Government on June 4 announced the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and directed Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the country to block access to platform.
Media houses also had to deactivate their Twitter accounts. These actions, according to AI, are clear violations of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of the press. The suspension followed the removal of a controversial tweet from Buhari threatening to deal with those causing trouble in the country using “the language they understand,” referencing the experience of the 1967-1970 civil war where millions of Nigerians got killed. The government has since set plans to force social media platforms to register and comply with local regulations before they are licensed to operate.