Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, says it is “painful” that Nigeria’s suspension of Twitter has been viewed internationally as an attack on press freedom.
He also scored Nigeria high on press freedom, despite the suspension, insisting that the government’s decision was to stop any possibility of war in the country, which, according to him, was being fuelled by Twitter.
Speaking on Radio Nigeria’s ‘Politics Nationwide’ on Tuesday, he said: “We must not confuse Press freedom with irresponsibility. Any platform that promotes war is not a responsible platform.
“How can you stay in your own country and allow your platform be used to foment war in our own county and all along be making money? There are very few countries in the world today that have a freer media than Nigeria.”
Although Garba Shehu, President Mohammadu Buhari’s spokesman, had said the suspension would be temporary, different international communities, including the European Union, have criticized the Nigerian government for taking “measures that would inhibit access to information”.
Mohammed, however, noted that the government was still preserving press freedom.
Responding to the global criticism, he said: “This is why it’s painful, the reaction of most foreign countries to our suspension of Twitter.
“They saw it from the prism of stifling press freedom. Not in the least. We have a very free press. We have no intention of stifling press freedom. However, we will do anything possible to keep our country one.
“Nigerians should be a bit more patriotic, they should please not because they hate a particular administration or a particular person not see the rationale for a particular policy of Government. In this particular case, suspending the operation of Twitter is done basically to ensure that no platform encourages war in Nigeria.”
Although Nigeria has lost up to N24 billion, according to NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool while many small-scale businesses have collapsed as a result of the government’s clampdown on Twitter, the minister defended their decision as a greater cause to sustain the “corporate existence of Nigeria”.
“We have no intention whatsoever to stifle anybody’s freedom. We have no intention to cut off the source of livelihood of anybody but if the platform through which you make your money is going to endanger the corporate existence of Nigeria, I think we have the responsibility to the bigger country to ensure that such platforms are reined in,” he added.
“They can come back, we can talk and there will be dos and don’ts. You can’t come to our country and dictate how you are going to operate. You must operate according to the laws of our country.”
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