The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Federal government to publicise the agreements with Twitter for clarification, as it “would enable Nigerians to scrutinise it, seek legal remedies as appropriate, and ensure that the conditions for lifting the suspension of Twitter are not used as pretexts to suppress legitimate discourse.”
The letter was copied to Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
This was contained in a statement issued by the SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare on Sunday.
According to SERAP, “President Muhammadu Buhari should use his good offices and leadership position to direct the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to provide our organisation with a copy of the agreement recently signed with Twitter, Inc, and to widely publish the details of any such agreement.”
“This is necessary in order to clarify the manner and scope in which the agreement with Twitter will be enforced, including whether the agreement incorporates respect for human rights, consistent with the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and international obligations.
“Publishing the agreement with Twitter would also promote transparency, accountability, and help to mitigate threats to Nigerians’ rights online, as well as any interference with online privacy in ways that deter the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression.
“Nigerians are entitled to their constitutionally and internationally recognised human rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, peaceful assembly and association, as well as public participation both offline and online.
“Any agreement with social media companies must meet constitutional and international requirements, including legality, necessity, proportionality and legitimacy.
“This means that any conditions for lifting the suspension of Twitter must meet the requirements of regular legal processes and limit government discretion. Secretly agreed conditions will fail these fundamental requirements.
“The government has a duty to demonstrate that the conditions for lifting the suspension of Twitter would not threaten or violate the enjoyment of Nigerians’ human rights online, and that the conditions are in pursuit of a legitimate goal in a democratic society,” the statement said.
SERAP further stated that “it was concerned about the enforcement of the agreement which might be a pretext to suppress legitimate discourse, interfere with online privacy, and deter the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression.
“Any agreement with social media companies must not be used as a ploy to tighten governmental control over access to the internet, monitor internet activity, or to increase online censorship and the capacity of the government to restrict legitimate online content, contrary to standards on freedom of expression and privacy.
“The Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties impose duties on your government to ensure enabling environments for freedom of expression, privacy rights and other human rights, and to protect their exercise.
“We would be grateful if the requested information and details are provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action in the public interest to compel your government to comply with our request.”