The United States’ Department of State has called on the Federal Government to reverse the suspension of the microblogging site, Twitter, in the country, insisting that such an action has no place in a democracy.
Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said this in a statement signed by his spokesman, Ned Price.
According to Blinken, the suspension limits the ability of Nigerians to freely receive and disseminate information.
The US top diplomat said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government must respect Nigerians right to freedom of expression by rescinding the ban immediately.
The statement read: “The United States condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter. The United States is likewise concerned that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission ordered all television and radio broadcasters to cease using Twitter.
“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.
“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.”
Blinken is the most senior US official that has spoken on the development.
The Federal Government announced the suspension of Twitter on Friday, two days after the microblogging site deleted a tweet of President Muhammadu Buhari after it was deemed to have “violated the Twitter rules”.
In a statement by Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture on Friday, the ban placed on Twitter was due to the “persistent use” of the platform in purportedly encouraging activities that “undermines Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
President Buhari had after meeting with the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on 1 June following the attacks on the commission’s offices in the South-East region said his administration will treat those fomenting trouble in the country “in the language they understand”.
However, the president’s comment elicited varied responses, with many Nigerians saying on social media that he had just threatened to deal with innocent citizens over the actions of a negligent few.
Many Nigerians inundated the microblogging site with requests for the removal of the controversial tweet and a suspension of the president’s account.
Despite initially saying that President Buhari’s tweet did not violate its rules, Twitter reversed its stance later on Wednesday, deleting the tweet.
According to the social media platform, “this tweet violated the Twitter rules”.
But Mohammed, the Minister of Information, hours after the tweet was deleted accused Twitter of double standards, insisting that the microblogging site’s rules are not the universal laws.
The minister subsequently announced the suspension of Twitter on 4 June.