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Nigeria orders broadcasters to delete ‘unpatriotic’ Twitter

Abuja directs radio, TV stations not to use Twitter to gather information and tells them to de-activate their accounts.

Nigerian television and radio stations should not use Twitter to gather information and they have to de-activate their accounts, the broadcast authority said, days after Abuja suspended the social media giant in the west African country.

The National Broadcasting Commission, in a statement released on Monday, told broadcasters to “suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately”.

“Broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source of information gathering,” it said in the statement, adding that “strict compliance is enjoined”.

“It would be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information.”

Nigeria’s government on Friday said it had suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists. Nigerian telecoms firms have since blocked access to Twitter.

The presidency denied that the Twitter suspension was a response to the removal of that post.

“There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real-world violent consequences,” a presidency spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

Shehu said the removal of Buhari’s tweet was “disappointing” and that “major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities.”

Twitter has called its suspension “deeply concerning” and said it would work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on the platform to communicate and connect with the world.

More than 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, according to NOI polls, a public opinion and research organisation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama summoned diplomats for a meeting on Monday in the capital Abuja, after the European Union and several countries issued a joint statement voicing concerns with the Twitter ban.

“Banning systems of expression is not the answer,” the EU, US, Britain, Canada and Ireland said in the statement late on Saturday.

The statement added it was “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”.

International human rights groups have also condemned the move, which followed previous attempts by the government to regulate social media.

“VPN app” was the second most searched trend on Saturday on Google in Nigeria, as virtual private networks can enable Twitter users to bypass the ban.

Nigeria warned however that it would prosecute violators.

“Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami has directed for immediate prosecution of offenders of the federal government ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria,” spokesman Umar Jibrilu Gwandu said.

The platform has played an important role in public discourse in the country, with hashtags #BringBackOurGirls after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in 2014, and #EndSARS during anti-police brutality protests last year.




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