The International Press Institute (IPI) joined its Nigerian National Committee in calling on the Nigerian government to restore access to Twitter.
Nigerian authorities blocked the social media platform on Friday, angered by Twitter’s decision to delete a tweet by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that the compay said violated its policy against “abusive behaviour”.
Twitter is widely used in Nigeria, including by journalists. It has frequently been used as a space to cricitize the government, most prominently in the EndSARS campaign against a notoriously brutal police unit.
IPI’s Nigeria National Committee released a statement criticizing the decision, calling the action “detrimental to the free press in Nigeria which uses Twitter as a major platform”.
The Committee said it “implores the Government to reverse the suspection of Twitter operations in Nigeria and engage in meaningful dialogue with the social media outfit on issues of concern to the government.”
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen echoed that call.
“While there are legitimate concerns about how social media companies make decisions about removing content, Nigeria’s decision to block Twitter is wholly disproportionate, seriously undermines the public’s right to share and receive news and information, and interferes with the ability of journalists to reach their audience”, he said. “We call on the Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse this move and reinstate access to Twitter.”
Griffen also criticized a move by Nigeria’s justice minister ordering prosecutors to arrest and investigate Nigerians who continued to use Twitter despite the ban, including through VPNs.
In his now-deleted tweet, President Buhari appeared to threaten secessionist groups in the country’s southeast. Referring to the confilct in Biafra in the 1960s, Buhari said that those “who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”.