The ECOWAS court on Tuesday ordered the Nigerian government not to “impose sanctions on media houses or harass, intimidate, arrest and prosecute Nigerians for using Twitter and other social media platforms” until the decision is over one filed substantive lawsuit was taken by NGOs contesting the ban.
The order stems from the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter after the platform removed a post by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari who threatened to punish regional secessionists who violated their rules, according to Twitter. Nigerian Attorney General Abubakar Malami went further and led the immediate criminal prosecution of offenders against the federal government’s ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria.
In response, the trustees of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a local rights group, and 176 other Nigerians petitioned the court for interim measures against the ban, requesting “an interim injunction to restrain the federal government from suspending Implement Twitter in Nigeria and subject anyone, including media houses and broadcasters, who use Twitter in Nigeria to harassment, intimidation, arrest and prosecution until the substantive lawsuit is heard and resolved.
The ECOWAS Court, exercising its powers under Article 79 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice, granted the measure and found that
recognizes that access to Twitter provides a platform for the exercise of freedom of expression and any interference with access will be viewed as interference with the right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, such an interference will amount to a violation of a fundamental human right which, according to Article 9 (4) of the Additional Protocol (A / SP.1 / 01/05), falls within the jurisdiction of this Court (A / SP.1 / 01/05) Amending protocol (A / P1 / 7/91) relating to the Community Court of Justice.
While the court’s decision prevents the Nigerian government from tracking and targeting individuals for their use of Twitter, it refused to order the Nigerian government to lift the suspension of their use of Twitter until the substantive lawsuit is resolved.
The suspension is currently being challenged by the NGO Media Rights Agenda and the eight other journalists who claim that Twitter’s suspension affected the performance of their professional duties and general access to important news / information, and that the suspension was an arbitrary act without legal justification, as it demonstrates your right to obtain, receive and share information protected by several human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the revised ECOWAS Treaty, restricted.