A court in West Africa, the Ecowas Court of Justice in Abuja, has ordered Nigerian authorities not to prosecute people for using Twitter while it considers a suit seeking to overturn a ban on its use, reports say.
The government on June 4 indefinitely suspended Twitter, two days after the social media platform removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists, which Twitter said violated its rules.
According to Reuters, the Nigerian attorney general said on June 5 that those who defied the ban should be prosecuted, but did not provide any details as to which law would be invoked.
In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, the Ecowas court said the government’s indefinite suspension of the social media platform violated the right to freedom of expression.
The ruling came after a Nigerian NGO, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), along with other groups, went to court to fight the ban, arguing that it was a violation of human rights.
The court “restrained the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest or prosecute Twitter and/or any other social media service provider(s), media houses, radio and television broadcast stations, the Plaintiffs and other Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of this suit,” said a statement by SERAP published in Premium Times said.
SERAP argued that “the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalisation of Nigerians and other people using Twitter have escalated repression of human rights and unlawfully restricted the rights of Nigerians and other people to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in the country.”
A BBC report, however, said the Nigerian government does not always comply with such court orders.
The Ecowas court has in the past ordered the release of former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki but he still remains in custody, the report said.
Compiled by Betha Madhomu