The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a rights organisation, has kicked against the recent directive from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), ordering television and radio stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts.
As the Nigerian government continues with its clampdown on the freedom of expression, the regulatory body said the move follows the ban earlier placed on the operations of Twitter in the country.
The NBC also threatened to prosecute citizens who still use the social media platform despite the ban.
However, SERAP, in a swift response from its Deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, describe the recent order as “patently unlawful and unconstitutional”
“This directive by the NBC is itself unlawful because it is based on another unlawful decision by the Federal Government to suspend Twitter in Nigeria. The NBC’s directive has political interference written all over it. It is a blow to Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression, media freedom, media independence and diversity. The directive must be immediately withdrawn.”
Mr Oluwadare reiterated that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, noting that the NBC move “is yet another nail in the coffin for human rights, media freedom and independent journalism under this government.”
“The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should publicly and vigorously express concerns over the Nigerian government’s increasingly brutal crackdown on media freedom, and use all possible means to urge the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to protect and respect freedom of expression.”
The rights group called on the international community to stand with the broadcast stations and journalists because the rule of law, which encompasses freedom of expression, is essential to democracy.
“The UN and donors should continue to take every opportunity to call on the Nigerian government to rescind the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, respect freedom of expression, and media freedom, and hold to account anyone targeting broadcast stations and journalists simply for carrying out their professional duty,” the group said.
Information minister Lai Mohammed had on Friday announced the ban on the activities of Twitter in Nigeria.
He also disclosed that the federal government has ordered the NBC to “immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”
The suspension of Twitter follows the latter’s deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial tweet about the civil war after some Nigerian users flagged it.
The government, in its response, accused the platform of bias against President Buhari and undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Although the presidency says the ban is temporary and an attempt to curb fake news, human rights groups and foreign missions have criticised the President Buhari-led administration for censorship, calling for a reversal of the suspension.