The United States says social media restrictions in Nigeria and the threat to prosecute users weakens the rights of the people.
The U.S. Consulate hosted “Conversation on Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Civic Space in Nigeria” on Wednesday in Lagos.
Consul General Claire Pierangelo, in her remarks, said the event was organized because the U.S. believes that media freedom and freedom of expression are vital to a thriving democratic system.
The Biden-Harris administration is committed to putting human rights at the heart of America’s foreign policy, Pierangelo stressed.
Noting that a free press is a core pillar to democracy, the diplomat said the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free expression and prohibits Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak at will.
Pierangelo said since 2019, she had spoken with thousands of Nigerians about democracy, elections, and the country’s history.
The CG expressed concern about the seeming muzzling of journalists as well as the proposed legislation which could have significant consequences for free press.
“Nigerian government’s ongoing suspension of Twitter and stated intent to introduce registration requirements for other social media platforms is deeply worrisome.
“Banning or significantly restricting social media, including under threat of prosecution, undermines Nigerians’ human rights and fundamental freedoms”, she declared.
America is encouraged by the meetings between Twitter and government technical committee aimed at resolving the suspension, the Consul General added.
Pierangelo charged reporters, editors, media executives, and the civil society to remain vigilant to protect the right to freedom of expression and press freedom.
On June 4, the Nigerian government ordered internet service providers to suspend access to Twitter.
The directive followed the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet for violation of rules.
The federal government vowed to prosecute citizens and broadcast stations who continue to tweet. The threat was later withdrawn due to outrage.
On June 22, the Buhari administration mentioned End SARS as one of the reasons for Twitter ban.
The government accused the social media platform of funding an uprising against the state.