Twitter ban and official paranoia - The Gallant News

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Monday, 16 August 2021

Twitter ban and official paranoia

 Twitter ban and official paranoia


Nigerian government blocked access to Twitter after it accused the platform of allowing activities capable of destabilizing Nigeria. The ban came after the platform censored President Muhammadu Buhari over comments it deemed inappropriate.

The presidency acted swiftly in directing the minister of communication who in turn   instructed telecoms in the country to block access to the widely popular platform. When Nigerians woke up the next day, they found themselves shut out from twitter. The few Nigerians who are still able to get on the platform today   use  virtual private networks (Vpns).The move drew local and international flaks. Now, many months down the line, the government is yet to back down from the ban or soft-pedal on the stringent conditions imposed on   twitter as a condition precedent to lift the ban.

It remains a taboo to beat a child and ask the child not to cry. In Africa, this adage lends support to the right of people to express themselves in the societies where they live in spite of stringent traditional and political customs that seek to silence people and stiffen the civic space where free speech ought to thrive.

As Africa has struggled to develop, the failure of leadership in so many African countries has been recognized as an almost insoluble problem.  The few countries that pretend to operate democratic governments do not have strong democratic institutions which conduce to true democracies in place. In countries where there is no semblance of democracy, sit-tight despots openly express their dismay, disgust and distaste with democracy, and the immeasurable power and publicity it will put right in the hands of ordinary people.

So almost everywhere one looks in Africa, the ill wind of autocracy blows, battering down the battlements of democracy like a battering ram. The result is that the ancient, inalienable right to free speech – a right arguably second only to the right to life in the broad spectrum of rights every human being should enjoy to live fully and dignifiedly – is in unprecedented difficulty.

Lamentably, Africa is infected with leaders who want the iron fists they crash into their citizens to go unprotested. Countless journalists languish in many African prisons for the crime of telling the stories of those forgotten by the oppression of their governments. Innumerable writers have disappeared for having the daring courage to thrust the pen just as the gun is cocked. An indeterminate number of human rights activists are in detention for having the cheeks to ask that the bootheels of oppression be lifted from the heads of trampled citizens.

So, like many other governments in Africa, the Nigerian government squirms at the dais Nigerians mount when they go on Twitter, and the megaphone it offers them. The Nigerian government rails at the fact that Twitter allows people to say something no matter how much another person does not want to hear it.

The very soul of free speech is that people actually have the space and safety to make a contribution; that people can say what they think and hear what others have to say; that there is dialogue which is so critical to the public diplomacy countries need to thrive without conflict. Free speech thrives as the basis of productive and progressive dialogue which is a necessary building block for every progressive society.

There is always something suspicious about those for whom every speech is hate speech or fake news.


 

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