New York, June 23, 2021 — In response to yesterday’s ruling by the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Court of Justice ordering Nigeria to refrain from sanctioning media outlets and Nigerian citizens for using Twitter, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“The ECOWAS court order for Nigeria to refrain from sanctioning media outlets and the country’s citizens for using Twitter is a welcome affirmation that efforts to curb freedom of the press are not welcome in West Africa,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Nigerian authorities should follow the court’s ruling, unblock Twitter, and take all other necessary actions to ensure their governance is consistent with regional press freedom standards.”
Nigeria blocked access to Twitter throughout the country on June 5, and Attorney General Abubakar Malami told CPJ that prosecuting users would “serve as a deterrence to others,” as CPJ documented at the time.
In its ruling, the ECOWAS Court of Justice did not invalidate Nigeria’s ban on Twitter, but ordered authorities to refrain from “imposing sanction on any media house” or citizen for their use of Twitter or other social media platforms pending the court’s ruling on a lawsuit challenging the ban, according to a press release from the court. The next hearing on that suit, filed by a group of concerned citizens and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a local rights group, is scheduled for July 6, according to that press release.
The ECOWAS court previously ruled in July 2020 that the Nigeria’s 2015 Cybercrime Act violated freedom of expression.