Friday, July 30, 2021

TVC, Channels, NTA, other broadcasters comply with Buhari regime’s repressive ban on Twitter

The directive has been widely condemned as draconian, primitive and unconstitutional by Nigerians and foreign missions with diplomatic ties with Nigeria.

• June 6, 2021

Nigerian broadcasters have started complying with a government directive that criminalised the use of Twitter in the country, checks by Peoples Gazette showed on Sunday. 

Broadcasters in Lagos, including TVC and Channels, have joined state-run NTA to stop distributing their contents to Twitter since Saturday afternoon. Radio stations, including Nigeria Info and Cool FM, have also stopped sharing posts or engaging with their audience on Twitter.  

The decision to ban Twitter over what the Buhari regime said had to do with national security came on June 4. But the broadcasters’ silence followed Attorney-General Abubakar Malami’s threat on June 5 to arrest and prosecute those defying the ban by continuing to use Twitter. 

The government’s directive has been widely condemned as draconian, primitive and unconstitutional by Nigerians and foreign missions with diplomatic ties with Nigeria, including the European Union, United States, Sweden and Canada. 

Most media outlets in Nigeria, including The Gazette, have disregarded the ban and continue to share content on the microblogging platform, citing a lack of constitutional backing for its issuance. Broadcasters like AIT and Arise have also defied the government’s directive as of Sunday evening. 

Management officials at Channels, TVC, NTA and Nigeria info did not return requests seeking comments from The Gazette. But some top officials at Channels and Cool FM told The Gazette under anonymity that they decided to pull the plug on Twitter in order not to attract the wrath of the administration. 

“We had to play it safe because it might be too costly if they come after us,” an official at Cool FM told The Gazette under anonymity to avoid being victimised by the government. 

“It is the right thing to do, even though the order is illegal, we cannot disobey compliance,” a Channels TV senior official told The Gazette on Sunday evening, pleading strict anonymity. “We have to obey first then we can look at coming together to challenge it in court.”

The development marked the first time in Nigeria’s democratic history that private stations will restrict their business visibilities on the account of a government’s directive, which was issued via a press release rather than a thoroughly debated and passed legislation.  

The government proscribed Twitter use in Nigeria a day after the social media firm removed some tweets of President Muhammadu Buhari that apparently threatened genocide against Igbo people in Nigeria’s South-East. A spokesperson for the president said the tweets were intended as a warning to separatist IPOB agitators accused of lawlessness across the region.

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