By Henah Joseph
SIR: The recent suspension of Twitter by the federal government and the attempt to extend same to other social media outlets is totally uncalled for and should be rejected by all lovers of democracy.
The action on Twitter is said to be as a result of taking down of President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial post. The question is, should the presidency be “angered” by the actions of those the American micro-blogging outfit has no control over? Should this anger stand in the way of other citizens right to information and freedom of expression?
This ban on Twitter shows the federal government’s resentment for the media and free speech which are fundamental to a democratic state. If we are really in democracy, then freedom of expression and right to information is non-negotiable.
Even if the President’s perception about the media has not changed since 1984, when his military administration promulgated Decree 4, his aides who are communication scholars should have told him how tragic it will be to gag the media in this jet age.
The presidency should learn from other democratic countries that faced similar issues. For example, former United States President, Donald Trump was suspended indefinitely not only by Twitter but also by Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for his alleged role in the Capitol Hill insurrection on January 6. The American government didn’t order an indefinite suspension of these giant platforms simply because the most powerful man in the world had been taken off their platforms.
The decisions hastily taken by our political leaders have grave consequences for our economy and the manner foreign investors and the world look at us.
Moreover, Twitter has been a source of livelihood to many social media influencers. Many young Nigerians have invested their time and money to build huge audiences on the Twitter platform and to help advertise brands, goods and services for different companies. These sets of Nigerians have now joined the already impoverished ones roaming the street.
The current unemployment rate according to the National Bureau of Statistics is 33% which is one of the highest in the world. This ban will no doubt increase the unemployment rate.
We urge the federal government to immediately rescind the suspension. It doesn’t speak well of our nascent democracy. It is not part of the tenets of any civil society. Nigerians should resist any form of dictatorship. We owe it to the future generations, to protect and secure an egalitarian society where freedom of speech and expression matters.
University of Maiduguri.