Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, NBC DG orders broadcast stations to leave Twitter

Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, NBC DG orders broadcast stations to leave Twitter

By Abankula

The U.S. based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged Nigerian authorities to end their suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria.

It also urged the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC) not to threaten to punish news outlets for using the platform, and rather allow the press to use social media networks freely.

“Nigeria’s Twitter ban and authorities’ threats to sanction media outlets that use the platform signal a flagrant disregard for the public’s right to access information, and an alarming willingness to punish journalists for their work,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, in Nairobi.

“Nigeria should be working to position itself as a leader on digital rights and access to information, not demonstrating ways that governments can implement sweeping online censorship.”

The CPJ statement was sent to P.M.News early on Wednesday. It was signed by Angela Quintal,Africa Program Coordinator and Jonathan Rozen, Senior Africa Researcher.

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Yesterday, the National Broadcasting Commission, the country’s broadcast regulator, issued a press release, dated June 6, ordering all broadcast outlets to cease publishing information on Twitter and to stop using Twitter as a news source.

Nigerian authorities ordered Twitter to be blocked throughout the country starting on June 5, according to a tweet by the company and reports by the Nigeria-based digital rights group Paradigm Initiative and the international Open Observatory of Network Interference.

The National Broadcasting Commission’s statement said it would be “unpatriotic” for Nigerian broadcasters to use Twitter in light of that blocking, and cites the country’s NBC Act and Broadcasting Code for its authority to order the broadcasters to cease using the network.

Violations of the broadcasting code are punishable with sanctions including fines and police-enforced shutdowns.

“Nigeria’s Twitter ban and authorities’ threats to sanction media outlets that use the platform signal a flagrant disregard for the public’s right to access information, and an alarming willingness to punish journalists for their work,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, in Nairobi. “Nigeria should be working to position itself as a leader on digital rights and access to information, not demonstrating ways that governments can implement sweeping online censorship.”

On June 4, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed had announced on the ministry’s website and Twitter account that authorities would suspend Twitter’s operations in the country due to the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

The nationwide block was implemented the following day by telecommunications operators following orders from the Nigerian Communications Commission, the country’s communications regulator, according to commission spokesperson Henry Nkemadu, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and news reports.

On June 6, Attorney General Abubakar Malami threatened to prosecute people who continued to use Twitter, but did not specify which laws or punishments would apply.

When CPJ called Malami today, he requested questions be sent via messaging app. In written responses to CPJ’s questions sent via messaging app, Malami said, “Nigeria respects the fundamental rights to free speech” but such freedom “has never been absolute, unqualified and unrestrained.” In response to CPJ’s question about why prosecutions for using Twitter are necessary, Malami said, “The essence of the law is to achieve stability in the country” and prosecution “will serve as a deterrence to others.”