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Outcry, defiance as Nigeria blocks Twitter

Jack Dorsey, Twitter and Square CEO.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter and Square CEO.

Digital rights advocacy groups and foreign embassies in Nigeria have expressed concern over the government’s suspension of Twitter operations.

The government on Friday announced it blocked access to the microblogging site in the country after Twitter reportedly deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari for breaching its rules.

Authorities also vowed to prosecute anyone found to have disregarded the ban.

Paradigm Initiative and six foreign missions said the move is tantamount to the abuse of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression.

“The directive by the Nigerian government is at its core, an abuse of the rights of Nigerians not just to freedom of expression. But many other rights guaranteed in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” reads a statement released by Paradigm Initiative.

The organisation also advocated that people use virtual private networks as a means to bypass the block.

While the government claims that Twitter's operations threaten to undermine Nigeria's corporate existence, the digital rights group suggests that the suspension is aimed at shielding the government from criticism especially from the country’s youth representing 70% of the population.

The diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a similar joint statement.

They view the suspension and the proposed registration requirements for other social media platforms to operate in Nigeria as a move to “inhibit access to information”.

Foreign embassies affirmed their support for what they described as "the fundamental human right of freedom of expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world" as rights that should be applied online as well as offline. Banning systems of expression is not the answer.”

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