As the world marks the International Right to Know Day, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to drop threat of attacks against social media, as “any such threat can only continue to strangle freedom of expression and limit the accountability of government.”
In a statement dated 29 September 2013, and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization stated that, “The 2011 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression has underscored the importance of freedom of expression on the Internet, and urged governments not to arbitrarily restrict this right.”
According to the organization, “The call by government officials for censorship of social media is entirely unnecessary as social media has played an important role in educating the ordinary citizens about the performance of their governments, and on issues of transparency and accountability. Social media are important to the work of human rights defenders everywhere. Any attempt to undermine this work will be resisted by civil society through national and international legal actions.”
“Freedom of expression on the Internet is a fundamental freedom. It is absolutely crucial to citizens’ rights to communicate and associate, and to the enjoyment of their other human rights, including the right to know how their governments are run, and to hold their leaders accountable,” the organization also said.
The organization also stated that, “The threats against the social media such as PREMIUM TIMES and SaharaReporters patently offend the constitution and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and commitments. Any arbitrary restrictions to freedom of expression including on the Internet through social media will be unnecessary in a democratic society, and clearly inconsistent with the conduct of a government reputed to have passed the Freedom of Information Act.”
“Rather than equating the role of social media in promoting transparency, accountability, and the rule of law to incitement to violence, any serious and people-oriented government should actually work to promote it. Indeed, the best solution to terrorism, insecurity and violence in any country is good governance and the rule of law and not flagrant infringement of internationally recognized human rights,” the organization added.
The organization said that, “While it is important to protect personal integrity in social media, a clean, transparent and accountable government that has nothing to fear will not use this ground as an excuse to undermine the sacred right to freedom of expression.”
According to the organization “Secrecy practices foster corruption. Public access to information is vital for anti-corruption efforts. Corruption undermines democracy, human rights and sustainable development.”
“This government needs to move faster to implement transparency commitments made under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) by demonstrating a higher level of tolerance for human rights, including freedom of expression. The president can show this by releasing to the public his asset declaration details, and publicly committing to improved transparency, accountability and the rule of law. The president should urgently introduce public registers of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and for those PEPs to file and publish comprehensive declarations,” the organization further said.
It would be recalled that the federal government on Friday through the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, claimed that social media community “are publishing reports capable of undermining military strategy against extremists, and stir mutiny within the military.”