ABUJA, Aug.11 (Reuters) – Nigeria will soon lift its ban on Twitter after resolving some of its disputes with the social media platform, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Wednesday, marking the end of a policy widely condemned as an affront to freedom of expression.
The Nigerian government suspended Twitter on June 4 after deleting a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists, and some telecommunications companies had blocked users’ access in Nigeria. Read more
“The ban on Twitter will soon be lifted as we are on the verge of reaching a full deal,” Mohammed told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “We have agreed on some areas. Hopefully in the next few days or weeks we will conclude.”
Mohammed said one outstanding issue was Nigeria’s request for Twitter to set up an office in the country. He said Twitter accepted this, but couldn’t do it until 2022.
The Twitter ban had prompted condemnation from the social media platform itself, Nigerian civil society groups including some who have sued the government over it, many Nigerian users, and the US government. Read more
Nigeria’s Attorney General initially said those who violated the Twitter ban should be prosecuted, but this was not enforced.
A West African court ruled on June 22 that Nigerian authorities could not prosecute people for using the service as they considered legal action to overturn the ban.
In practice, many Nigerian users continued to post on Twitter, but ministries and other government agencies stopped using it.
The ban was imposed after Twitter deleted a post from Buhari on June 2 that it said violated its “abusive behavior” policy.
In the post, Buhari made reference to the 1967-70 civil war, during which he served in the Nigerian military as it fought secessionists in the southeast. Speaking of modern-day secessionists in the same region, he said he would “treat them in the language they understand”.
Relations between the Nigerian government and Twitter were strained even before the President’s Tweet was deleted.
In April, Mohammed reacted angrily when Twitter chose Ghana, a much smaller country in West Africa, for its first office on the continent. The minister said the company had been influenced by false media statements about Nigeria.
Another disagreement arose out of a period of intense popular protests last year against police brutality. Protesters had used social media to organize, fundraise and share evidence of police harassment.
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey tweeted to encourage his followers to donate, infuriating Nigerian officials.
Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Alison Williams and Bernadette Baum
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