United States Consul General, Claire Pierangelo, has described the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government as a deeply worrisome development to the American government and other countires. This is as the envoy said the US is also concerned about the freedom of journalists to do their jobs in Nigeria. Pierangelo spoke yesterday at a programme organised by the Public Affairs Section of the United States Consulate General Lagos, titled “A Conversation on Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Civic Space in Nigeria.” While stating that the US is encouraged by the recent report of talks and negotiations between Twitter and the Federal Government, Pierangelo expressed optimism that both parties would come to an agreement that would preserves the rights of the Nigerian citizens to freedom of expression.
Stating that Nigeria had a vibrant democracy and a relatively free press, she added: “However, some concerns remain about the freedom of journalists to do their job. We take note when legislation is introduced which could have significant consequences for the freedom of the press. “In addition, Nigerian government’s ongoing suspension of Twitter and stated intent to introduce registration requirements for other social media platforms is deeply worrisome. “Banning or significantly restricting social media, including under threat of prosecution, undermines Nigerians’ human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“We are encouraged by the meetings between Twitter and government’s technical committee last week aimed at resolving the suspension.” Emphasizing the value of promoting and protecting a free press as an essential pillar of responsive and accountable democracy, she called for press freedom and freedom of expression in Nigeria.
The Federal Government on June 4 suspended the micro-blogging platform indefinitel in the country after the company deleted a controversial tweet President Muhammadu Buhari made about a secessionist movement. Information, Culture and Tourism Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, subsequently said Twitter must register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and obtain a licence from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as part of the conditions to operate in the country.
Mr Lanre Arogundade of the International Press Centre (IPC) at yesterday’s event spoke on the recent moves to push through two bills to amend the National Broadcasting Act and the Nigeria Press Council Act, stating that the aim was to stifle both freedom of expression and freedom of speech. At a panel discussion moderated by Mike Okwoche of TVC News, the panelists, which included, Fisayo Soyombo, Founder, Foundation for Investigative Journalism; Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Managing Director, Arise TV and Jiti Ogunye, Principal Counsel, Jiti Ogunye Chambers, were unanimous that democracy cannot thrive without press freedom.
The panelists also called for a proper education of policymakers on the role of the media in a democratic society, just as they demand for internal moderation on the part of the media. Mustapha Isah, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, said the media leadership would not be cowed by the different legislative restrictions being put together by some lawmakers, calling for vigilance among all media professionals.