ABSTRACT: The study appraised the effect of Twitter ban on freedom of information among journalists in Lagos. A survey research method was adopted. A questionnaire was used to elicit responses from respondents who were journalists in Lagos. The study was anchored on Sources Credibility Theory and Technology Determinism Theory. Accidental sampling technique as a non-probability sampling technique was adopted. The data collected were analyzed in descriptive statistics (frequency and percentage) with the aids of SPSS version 23. Findings show that majority of respondents (42.3%) claimed that they use Twitter to a very high extent as many of them (48%) often use Twitter. Many of respondents (48%) agree that Twitter really enhanced their right to freedom of expression. Also the majority of respondents (48%) disagree that Twitter ban has led to loss of job, although many respondents (47.3%) agree that Twitter ban was against human right and kick against it. No wonder larger number of respondents (41.5%) agreed that ban of Twitter should be lifted as majority of respondents (31.5%) claimed that banned of Twitter hindered their freedom of information and news gathering. The study recommended that Twitter and other social media need not to be repressed as they offer platforms for free expression of opinion especially on public matters. Also, Twitter should be lifted out of ban because it affected lots businesses apart for media operators to share their activities and programmes online.
Keywords: Twitter Ban
1.1 Background to the Study
Precisely, on June 4th 2021, the Nigerian government officially put an indefinite ban on Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria after the social media platform deleted tweets made by the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari where he warned the south eastern people of Nigeria (Maclean, 2021). Ohuocha (2021) pointed out that the Nigerian government claimed that the deletion of the President’s tweets factored into their decision but it was ultimately based on “a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences”.
According to Wikipedia (nd) who observed that the ban was condemned by various international human rights organisation, United Nations, Amnesty International as well as the British and Canadian missions and the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria among other. Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other Organisations indicated intent to challenge the ban in court. Twitter itself called the ban “deeply concerning”.
Maclean (2021) confirmed that Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Cultural, Lai Mohammed said the ban will be lifted once Twitter submits to local licencing, registration and conditions. The minister noted that the ban will be licenced by the broadcasting commission, and must agree not to allow its platform to be used by those who are promoting activities that are inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria. However, three days after the ban, it was reported that the ban has cost the country over 6 billion Naira and will also contribute to the worsening unemployment in the country.
Odeh (2021) pointed out that the ban on Twitter is a direct attack on freedom of expression, free speech, and rights. According to Odeh (2021), the banning of Twitter is regrettable, adding that the action is a stifle the rights of citizens with this move which stands to retract the minimal gains made around freedom of expression and media independence since the days of military rule in Nigeria.
Press freedom has historically been a contentious issue in many African countries, with Nigeria criticised as one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists (Odeh, 2021). Also, Odeh (2021) noted that such a ban will only stifle the ambitions of many young Nigerians, as many of whom had already using Twitter to market their businesses and expand to new markets around the globe.
The ban of Twitter is equally harmful to the entertainment and media industries as many content creators will be unable to reach their audiences. According to Odeh (2021) the ban also closes the door to open dialogue between Nigerians both locally and in the diaspora. Furthermore, it hampers the fundamental rights of Nigerians to free speech, freedom of expression and greatly limits the civic space in the country (Odeh, 2021).
According to Odeh (2021), the freedom of the press has been under constant attack in Nigeria. Since 2015 when President Buhari assumed office, over 226 cases of attacks on the Nigerian media have been recorded by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism [PTCIJ] Press Attack Tracker. These cases include physical attacks, sanctions, surveillance, closure of radio and TV stations, imprisonments and killings among other forms of oppression. A similar platform managed by Spaces for Change has recorded over 320 instances of the federal government and other affiliated institutions clamping down on civic space. Broad categories of these attempts to close civic space include restrictions on free speech, freedom of association and assembly.
According to IFEX (2021), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC) condemned the Government’s action as a violation of international norms and standards, pointed out that such step contravene the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’ Resolution 362 on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa, adopted on November 4, 2016 at its 59th Ordinary Session; the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, adopted by the Commission in November 2019, at its 65th Ordinary Session; and recent UN Human Rights Council resolutions touching on the matter.
Although, Committee to Protect Journalists (2021) writes that on June 22 2021 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 but surprisingly, till date Twitter has not being unblock. It is against this background that the study appraised the effect of Twitter ban on freedom of information among journalists in Lagos.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Before the signing of Freedom of Information Act (FOI) by formal president Goodluck Jonathan on the 28th May 2011, the press, human rights even individual went through a lot of criticism in the hands of government especially the military government which as a result, many journalists and human rights activists were imprisoned, assassinated and assaulted.
It is the belief of lots of Nigerians that with the new Freedom of Information Act, most of the challenges facing assess and sharing of information will go to an end, but surprisingly, with the recently ban of Twitter by the federal government of Nigeria, the aspiration of many Nigerians seems to be chattered as banning of Twitter is amount to infringement on freedom of expression especially as many news media rely on it for sourcing and sharing information.
How free are press, human rights and individual under the FOI Act as Twitter was recently banned, what gap has new ban of Twitter has on Nigerians, to what extent are journalists really accept this development in their daily routine especially in accessing and sharing of information in Nigeria.
This and many more questions are begging for the answers, it is against this background that the study investigates audience perception of freedom of expression in Nigeria Focusing on Journalists in Lagos state particularly on news gathering, processing and dissemination, fighting corruption, promoting political awareness and increase political participation through plurality and diversity of information especially in democratic tenet.
Also, most of the studies on Twitter non focus on Twitter ban or social media ban but rather focusing on positive or negative effect of social media. It is against this backdrop that the study is on the thrust to appraise the effect of Twitter ban on freedom of information among journalists in Lagos.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
- To examine the perception of journalists towards the ban of Twitter by the federal government.
- To determine whether the ban of Twitter has hampered freedom of information.
1.4 Research Questions
- What is the Perception of journalists towards the ban of Twitter by the federal government?
- To what extent has banned of Twitter hampered freedom of information?
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study which investigated the effect of Twitter ban on freedom of information among journalists in Lagos was narrowed in scope to journalists in Lagos at Nigerian Union Journalists (NUJ) and Freelance and Independent Broadcasters Association of Nigeria. The press center is selected because it offers the researcher avenue to have access to as many journalists as possible because journalists often visit the place. The selection of these two organizations in Lagos is due to inadequate time, lack of fund and other considerable logistics.
Thus, the geographical scope of this study shall be within Lagos state. The choice of journalists in Lagos state was due to the proximity to the researcher, inadequate time to study all journalists in Nigeria among other logistics. Also, the demographic factors of the respondents will carefully study before the administration of research instruments such factors include: age, gender, academic level e.t.c.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study is intended at finding out journalists perception of freedom of expression in Nigeria. This study is also essential to serve stakeholders in the information sector with the needed insight on the level freedom enjoy on Nigeria and global perspective.
The significance of the study also aiming at revealing to the entire world especially the media practitioners, audience which include different bodies and agencies that the freedom of expression is a freedom of everybody in the society irrespective of their discipline, status and background.
The study will further help media practitioners on the need to fully inculcate and freely but responsible in their daily activities for better gathering and dissemination of factual and balanced stories.
It is also expected that at the end of this study, the study will update knowledge within the framework of freedom of expression, particularly, it will assist general public on the reasons journalists and individuals need to be more free and enjoy more freedom of expression in the society at large.
The government through its various agencies will see reason to ensure freedom of expression and information entrenched in the 199 constitution as amended to be in line with democratic tenet
Press, human rights and other related bodies will also understand why Twitter and other social media should be free as offers platform to criticize and encourage government on development programmes
More so, those who want to engage in similar study will find it very useful by serving as a reference point as it will add to the body of knowledge available on freedom of expression in Nigeria. Similarly, the findings of this study will serve as an additional literature on the topic for students and researchers who will like to carry out similar research while, the material will form bulk literature that exist in the field of mass communication, journalism, development journalism and media studies, etc
1.7 Operational Definition of Team
Journalists: This refers to the people working in any mass media organization that are saddled with news gathering function
Freedom of Expression: This means freedom to express one’s feeling one public issue without fear or favour.
Twitter Ban: In this research, Twitter ban simply means effort of federal government of Nigeria in prohibiting the use of Twitter in the country.