The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has urged the federal government to tread with caution and immediately reconsider the suspension of the operation of Twitter in Nigeria.
The umbrella body of Nigerian Editors also urged the federal government to seek other legitimate means of resolving its dispute with the microblogging platform.
In a statement jointly signed by Mustapha Isah and Iyobosa Uwugiaren, NGE president and general secretary respectively on Saturday, the Guild said that the federal government’s action has the unintended consequence of jeopardising the economic interests of many Nigerians who rely on the social media platform for vital information to make informed business decisions daily.
Advising the federal government to desist from any action that would project the Nigerian government as a dictatorial, the Nigerian editors said that the action is an infringement on Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and violates the right of Nigerians to interact freely on this platform.
‘’In addition, the suspension is a grave breach of Nigeria’s international obligations under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
‘’The Guild sees the federal government’s action as an overreaction to Twitter’s decision to delete President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet early this week.
‘’If the federal government finds Twitter’s action against the President objectionable, Nigerians should not be made to suffer the collateral damage of denying them their right to freely discourse on Twitter,’’ the Guild added.
It noted that the federal government had in an initial reaction by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, condemned the deletion of President Buhari’s tweets as an unacceptable tab on the president’s right, saying this ought to have been a sufficient response.
‘’However, the ban at the weekend, of Twitter’s operation in Nigeria, is an overkill that gives wind to the sail of critics who daily accuse the Buhari administration of intolerance of opposing views.
‘’Certainly, the federal government has the responsibility to safeguard the unity, peace and stability of Nigeria and any person or group that threatens this must draw its ire. In expressing its anger, the federal government, however, ought to exercise restraints to avoid giving the impression that it is intolerant of opposing views and expression of opinion by individual and corporate citizens,’’ the Guild stated.
Stressing its concern over the growing insecurity in the country, the Guild advised social media companies, which provide micro-messaging services, to also beam their searchlight on the activities of those who want to use their platforms to cause divisions and spread hatred in the country and the global community as well.
Noting the socio-political and economic benefits of social media platforms, the NGE explained that strong democracies rely on both civic and political participation by citizens, saying that Twitter, has over the years, aided citizens’ participation in the nation’s democratic process.
‘’The Guild is aware of the democratizing influence of social media platforms, including Twitter, in helping to check dictatorship and promote democracy worldwide.
‘’Twitter also builds a market research prospect for businesses to see what customers are chit-chatting about, their feeling and what is important to them about products and services,’’ the Guild said.
The Guild, therefore, called on the federal government to immediately rescind its decision in order not to deny millions of Nigerians who rely on Twitter to provide services and earn a living.