President Biden’s top diplomat condemned the Nigerian government Thursday over 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 the U.S. is concerned about the Nigerian government also recently ordering TV and radio broadcasters to stop using Twitter for gathering and reporting the news.
“Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, gather and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy. Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies,” Mr. Price said in a statement issued by the U.S. State Department.
“We support Nigeria as it works towards unity, peace and prosperity. As its partner, we call on the government to respect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression by reversing this suspension,” he said.
The government in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has been at odds with Twitter since the company briefly suspended its president’s account last week and pulled 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 removed it for him last Wednesday. It was banned across Nigeria two days later.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, said in a statement Friday that Twitter had been suspended indefinitely because of “the 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 following day.
“Any violator, whether individuals or organizations, will be prosecuted,” Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, a spokesman for Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney general and minister of justice, said Saturday, CNN reported.
Also on Saturday, the diplomatic missions of the U.S., Canada, the European Union, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland issued a joint statement condemning Nigeria’s government for banning Twitter.
“We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline,” they said.
More recently, Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission ordered all broadcast stations Sunday “to suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately.” Doing otherwise is “unpatriotic,” the regulator said.
Twitter previously said it found the Nigerian government‘s actions to be “deeply concerning.”