Following their meeting with Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama, the envoys of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and the European Union in Nigeria have maintained that banning Twitter in the country remains a violation of freedom of expression.
They disclosed this after they met with Onyeama on Monday, in Abuja.
Speaking on behalf of the five envoys at the closed-door meeting, US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, insisted that the nations maintained their earlier position that the ban on Twitter by the Nigerian government violated the freedom of expression of Nigerians, irrespective of concerns by the government that the platform was being used to perpetuate hate speech and criminality.
She said, “We recognise the official position of the Nigerian government on the responsible use of social media but we remain firm in our position that free access to information is very important and perhaps more important during troubled times.
We are here as partners and we want to see Nigeria succeed. It’s very clear that we are Nigeria’s strongest partners on issues of security and we recognise the daunting times in the way of the security challenges that confront Nigeria. While they are daunting, they are not insurmountable and part of the way to surmount them is the partnership of the people you see represented here.”
Onyeama, in his response, disclosed that the Nigerian government was in dialogue with Twitter on the best ways to resolve the matter.
He said, “We know the power of words and when you have that kind of power to manage and facilitate communication to billion of people; it has to come with responsibility. So, we are taking this measure to see to what extent we can rebalance this media as forces of good and stop them being used as a platform for destabilization and facilitation of criminality.”
What you should know about the meeting
The Minister had invited the ambassadors to the meeting over their recent comments on the suspension of the microblogging site in Nigeria, according to Nairametrics.
Nairametrics earlier reported that in a joint statement on Saturday, Canada, EU, UK, US, and the Republic of Ireland said banning systems of expression was not the way forward.
The statement partly read, “The diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America convey our disappointment over the Government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirements for other social media.
We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria, as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline.
Banning systems of expression is not the answer. These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”