The international community has insisted that the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government is a violation of citizens’ freedom of expression.
The envoys of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and the European Union in Nigeria, on Monday stated this during a meeting with the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in the nation’s capital,Abuja.
Onyema had invited the ambassadors to the meeting over their remarks on the suspension of the microblogging platform in Nigeria.
The diplomats had earlier released a joint statement on Saturday, stating that the Nigerian government’s decision is not the way to go.
The statement partly read that, “The diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America convey our disappointment over the Government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirements for other social media.
“We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline.
“Banning systems of expression is not the answer. These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While speaking for the five envoys at a closed-door meeting with Onyeama on Monday, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, maintains their earlier position that the ban on Twitter by the Nigerian government violates freedom of expression of Nigerians notwithstanding the concerns by the government that the platform was being used to spread misinformation and criminality.
She said that “We recognise the official position of the Nigerian government on the responsible use of social media but we remain firm in our position that free access to information is very important and perhaps more important during troubled times.
“We are here as partners and we want to see Nigeria succeed. It’s very clear that we are Nigeria’s strongest partners on issues of security and we recognise the daunting times in the way of the security challenges that confront Nigeria. While they are daunting, they are not insurmountable and part of the way to surmount them is the partnership of the people you see represented here,” Leonard added.
The diplomats, however, were positive that the Federal government would reach a common ground as it was already in discussions with Twitter.
The foreign affairs minister also confirmed that the Nigerian government was in a parley with Twitter to explore favourable ways to resolve the matter.
He explained to the envoys that the government is not against the use of social media, however, it want to see it used for global good and responsible communications.
In his words, “We know the power of words and when you have that kind of power to manage and facilitate communication to billion of people; it has to come with responsibility. So, we are taking this measure to see to what extent we can rebalance this media as forces of good and stop them being used as a platform for destabilization and facilitation of criminality.”
It all began when Twitter deleted a controversial civil war post by the President Muhammadu Buhari, claiming it violates its terms of service. The government subsequently retaliated by banning the site, citing the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” as a reason.