President Biden’s top diplomat on Thursday condemned the Nigerian government for its ongoing ban on the social media service Twitter and its recent threats to arrest and prosecute residents caught using it.
Secretary of State Ned Price added that the United States is concerned that the Nigerian government also recently ordered radio and television stations to stop using Twitter to collect and report the news.
“Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, collect and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy. Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are essential for safe and prosperous democratic societies, ”Price said in a statement issued by the US State Department.
“We support Nigeria in its work towards unity, peace and prosperity. As your partner, we call on the government to respect the right of its citizens to freedom of expression by reversing this suspension, ”he said.
The government of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has been at odds with Twitter since the company briefly suspended its president’s account last week and removed one of his posts from its platform.
Twitter had said that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari violated the company’s abusive behavior policy with the post and was removed last Wednesday. It was banned in Nigeria two days later.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, said in a statement on Friday that Twitter had been suspended indefinitely due to “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Nigerians caught using Twitter in defiance of the ban risk being prosecuted accordingly, another federal official said the next day.
“Any offender, be it individuals or organizations, will be prosecuted,” said Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, spokesman for Abubakar Malami, Nigerian attorney general and justice minister, said on Saturday, CNN reported.
Also on Saturday, the diplomatic missions of the United States, Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland issued a joint statement condemning the Nigerian government for banning Twitter.
“We strongly support the fundamental human right to freedom of expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria and around the world, and these rights apply both online and offline,” they said.
Most recently, the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission ordered all broadcasting stations on Sunday to “suspend Twitter sponsorship immediately.” Doing otherwise is “unpatriotic,” the regulator said.
Twitter previously said that it considered the Nigerian government’s actions to be “deeply troubling.”