Twitter ban: SERAP, 176 Nigerians drag FG to ECOWAS court

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja to challenge the Federal Government’s suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria.

The suit with No ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21 was filed by human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) on behalf of SERAP and 176 concerned Nigerians.

The federal government suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria last week.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who announced the decision in a statement, said the platform was suspended because of its persistent use for activities capable of undermining the country’s corporate existence.

The suit, read in part:

“The suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government.

“The free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens and elected representatives is essential. This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censor or restraints and to inform public opinion. The public also has a corresponding right to receive media output.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the full enjoyment of this right is central to achieving individual freedom and to developing democracy. It is not only the cornerstone of democracy but indispensable to a thriving civil society.

“The arbitrary action by the Federal Government and its agents have negatively impacted millions of Nigerians who carry on their daily businesses and operational activities on Twitter. The suspension has also impeded the freedom of expression of millions of Nigerians, who criticize and influence government policies through the microblogging app.

“The suspension of Twitter is arbitrary, and there is no law in Nigeria today permitting the prosecution of people simply for peacefully exercising their human rights through Twitter and other social media platforms.

“The suspension and threat of prosecution by the Federal Government constitute a fundamental breach of the country’s international human rights obligations including under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

“The suspension has seriously undermined the ability of Nigerians and other people in the country to freely express themselves in a democracy and undermined the ability of journalists, media houses, broadcast stations, and other people to freely carry out their professional duties.

“A lot of Nigerians at home and abroad rely on Twitter coverage of topical issues of public interest to access impartial, objective, and critical information about ideas and views on how the Nigerian government is performing its constitutional and international human rights obligations.

“The implication of the decline in freedom of expression in Nigeria is that the country is today ranked alongside countries hostile to human rights and media freedom such as Afghanistan, Chad, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and Colombia.”

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