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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Polls: FG considering shutting down internet, social media platforms – PIN alleges

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Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a pan-African social enterprise organization alleged on Tuesday, that the Federal Government might shut down the internet and some social media platforms before the general elections.

The organization alleged that recent utterances and steps by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and that of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami are pointers to the fact that such plans are being hatched.

Executive Director of the organization, Gbenga Sesan, told journalists at a press conference in Abuja, that such a decision will have a strong negative effect on the credibility of the processes that would culminate in the election of new political leaders in a few months.

He said: “It came to Nigerians as a shock when the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed announced the ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria in June 2021. A similar thing might repeat itself if care is not taken.

“The government might give security as the reason for such action but it’s for their own interest and security, and not for the interest of all Nigerians. We don’t want that repeated because it will have a negative effect on the credibility of the process.

“If that is done, we would be forced to rely on whatever government says as the authentic information. That shouldn’t be. However, we have held meetings to discuss issues that concern the elections and activities that would be happening on the social media spaces.”

PIN Programme Officer, Sani Suleiman, in his remarks, said that PIN is ready to deploy digital toolkits and also engage fact-checkers to ensure the information provided in the internet spaces either by individuals or politicians is verified and corrected where necessary.

He said: “We have developed AYETA which is an online toolkit for digital security. It was designed to provide users with the tools and resources they need to protect their online privacy and security. This is particularly important in the run-up to the coming elections where access to information and the ability to communicate freely online is essential for a transparent election process.”

He said that AYETA toolkit will address the growing need to safeguard digital rights defenders, journalists, whistleblowers, and others working with sensitive information in the country and Africa at large.

“The internet and social media have become indispensable forums for political discourse. Thus, it is imperative that the fundamental digital rights of citizens, including access to information, freedom of expression, privacy, and data protection, are safeguarded before, during, and after the election periods.

“Any deviation from this principle can result in unequal access to information and suppression of diverse political viewpoints, thereby, undermining the democratic principles of free and fair elections,” he said.

He made reference to most African countries where digital rights violations such as internet censorship, dissemination of false information through social media, and surveillance of citizens and political opponents, which often goes un(der)reported are prevalent during elections and can compromise the integrity of the democratic process and undermine the protection of individual’s privacy and freedom of expression.

He maintained that PIN is committed to collaborating with organizations and stakeholders in the digital rights and inclusion sector to bring about positive change and ensure that every individual has the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and access to information online before, during, and after the election.

 

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