Nigeria’s “authoritarian” Twitter ban has been condemned by activists and the West

Nigeria seems to be regressing Twitter banAfter diplomats condemned the move, it was called “temporary.” Activists said it was related to the government’s anger against the company after the government used the hashtag “#EndSARS” to sweep the country in anti-police brutal protests last year.

Telecom operators shut down Nigerians’ access to Twitter on Saturday in accordance with government orders Deleted a post President Muhammadu Buhari violated his policy of abusive speech. Buhari’s post, which appeared to threaten separatists in southeastern Nigeria, was deleted on Wednesday.

Buhari’s spokesperson Garba Shehu said: “Nigeria’s social media platform has a series of problems. Misinformation and fake news spread through it have caused violent consequences in the real world.” “The company has evaded responsibility all the time. .”

Increasingly, governments seeking to regulate social media blame the banned separatist Biafra indigenous peoples group for the surging violence in the southeast. Shehu said that Buhari’s subsequent deleted tweets “just reiterated that their force will be hit by force.”

“Major technology companies must fulfill their responsibilities,” Shehu said, but did not specify when Twitter’s “suspension” will end.

This incident is just the latest example of growing tension between social media companies and political leaders.Twitter suspended former US President Donald Trump in January, and last week Facebook said it would keep Trump suspended At least two years.

Buhari, 78, has long been accused of living in the past, Especially when the former general ruled Nigeria as a military dictator in the early 1980s and freedom of the press was restricted.

Nigeria’s Attorney General Abubakar Malami said on Saturday that he would prosecute those who violated the Twitter ban. But on Sunday, many Nigerians circumvented the ban by using a VPN and posting messages with the hashtag #KeepItOn.

Local activists said that the Twitter incident is just the latest example of the spread of government authoritarianism. They linked it to last year’s protests against police brutality, when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey used the hashtag #EndSARS to express support on Twitter.

“Since EndSARS, the government has been uncomfortable with Twitter, so that’s all [come to a] Headed by the deletion of President Buhari’s tweets,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja. “This government does not accept criticism and does not understand the power of young people and social media. “

Hassan added that the Twitter ban is “only part of a continuing attack on civic space and Nigeria’s total authoritarianism”.

Since the violent suppression of the Lekki toll gate in Lagos by soldiers firing on peaceful protesters in October last year, the EndSARS movement (referring to Nigeria’s special anti-robbery squad) has basically been dormant.

The Twitter ban is “about EndSARS, and the country’s leadership feels disrespectful of how young people demonstrate good governance against the poor leadership they have [shown] These years,” said 22-year-old activist Rinu Oduala.

Twitter is only used by a small group of Nigerians, but it is very popular among activists, journalists and politicians. The company said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned” about the ban and will “work to restore access to all Nigerians who rely on Twitter.”

Diplomats from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Canada criticized the move in a joint statement. The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria added that the ban “weakened the ability of Nigerians to exercise” freedom of speech and “sent a terrible message to their citizens, investors and businesses”.

The embassy said in a statement: “The road to a safer Nigeria lies in more communication, not less, and joint efforts to achieve unity, peace and prosperity.”

Ayisha Osori, head of the West African Open Society Initiative, said that telecom operators, including Airtel and MTN, also implemented the policy immediately without a court order, which is “shocking”. She said the ban reflects the country’s long-standing way of exercising power.

She said: “If there is more than one kind of power and power over the people in Nigeria, we would not be here.” “But because in Nigeria, power is always used severely-we are here.”

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About the Author: Agnes Zang