The Digital Rights Information Partnership and the Paradigm Initiative, a coalition of activists and civil society organizations, have cautioned the Federal Government against an illegal shutdown of the internet environment during the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
According to The PUNCH, the group gave this warning in a statement through their heads, Edozie Chukwuma and Khadija El-Usman, on Friday.
According to the organisations, Nigerians are entitled to protection from illegal internet and digital space shutdowns before, during, and after the elections.
They urge the federal government to create an atmosphere in which voters can vote and publicly voice their opinions online, and to prevent any forms of media restriction or internet shutdown.
Recall that the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in 2021, ordered the closure of Twitter for seven months, infringing on Nigerians’ rights and preventing them from using the microblogging network.
They emphasized that both traditional and digital media have fueled electoral campaigns, voter education, and civic debates among candidates.
“Nigeria is at the brink of conducting the most anticipated and contested election in two decades. The use of the internet, social and mass media conveys the importance of digital rights and freedom of speech in Nigeria,” they disclosed.
Nonetheless, the groups did identify some of the similar concerns encountered in the digital domain, such as data protection issues, online freedom of expression, internet governance, regulation, shutdowns, online privacy, and monitoring.
In addition, they emphasized that the federal legislation should ensure that all Nigerians are able to gain access to the internet and electronic media without facing censorship or discrimination, protect the rights to peaceful assembly and association online through social networks and platforms, and prohibit any undue interference with the digital privacy of any Nigerian citizen.
“Protects right to opinion and expression online without any restriction, secure the privacy of all online learners including students, protecting information and communication technology, ensures the government recognises the power of social media as a democratic advantage to reinforce democratic processes, drive efficiency, foster innovation, empower public sector workers and expose
corruption,” they added.
The organizations demanded that the government protect the civic space, limit unlawful shutdowns, and ensure the rights of all Nigerians to free speech and peaceful assembly online.
“We call for the protection of digital rights and online freedom as it is of democratic importance to ensure accountability and good governance from our government at all levels.”