Media Defence Logo

CLOSE

Judgment: ECOWAS Court finds Nigeria violated freedom of expression with Twitter blocking

Judgment: ECOWAS Court finds Nigeria violated freedom of expression with Twitter blocking

On 14 July 2022, the ECOWAS Court handed down an important decision for freedom of expression and digital rights. It found that Nigeria, by blocking access to Twitter, violated the rights of the Plaintiffs: five Nigerian NGOs and four journalists. The ECOWAS Court ordered Nigeria to put in place a legal framework that is consistent with international human rights law standards, including the right to freedom of expression. Moreover, the ECOWAS Court ordered Nigeria not to block the social media platform again.

About the case

Media Defence and Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga represented the Plaintiffs, who challenged the decision of the Nigerian government to ban Twitter in Nigeria on 4 June 2021. As well as blocking access to Twitter, the government issued a directive threatening to prosecute anyone who used Twitter. The blocking followed Twitter’s decision to delete a post by President Buhari on 2 June 2021. Twitter said the post contravened its ‘abusive behaviour’ rules. The Plaintiffs set out in detail what impact the blocking of Twitter had on their daily activities. This included the effects it had on their professional lives. They also described the impact of the suspension order on wider Nigerian society, including the difficulties faced by many in having access to vital information. One of the Plaintiffs described social media via Twitter as being the biggest civic space in Nigeria.

Internet shutdowns and social media blocking have become an increasingly popular method of suppressing dissent and any critical reporting on governments. This judgment by the ECOWAS Court represents an important step in pushing back against this phenomenon.

Welcoming the decision, Media Defence’s Legal Director Padraig Hughes, who acted for the Plaintiffs, said, “This is an important decision not just for its finding that the Nigerian government acted unlawfully in banning Twitter, but also because the ECOWAS Court has ordered the Nigerian government to amend its laws to ensure this type of interference doesn’t happen again”.

 

To find out more about internet blocking, read our module: Access to Content: Censorship, Blocking and Filtering. This module is part of our Advanced Modules on digital rights and freedom of expression online in sub-Saharan Africa.

Recent News

Freedom of expression in Poland: legal harassment against journalists and widening political control over the media

Welcome to the latest instalment of our Partners blog series. In this series, we interview our partners from around the world about their critical work in protecting freedom of expression. This time our communications assistant Julie Reintjes spoke to Konrad Siemaszko, who works as a lawyer for the Poland-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR). […]

Read

Call for Consultants: Independent Evaluation of ‘Empowering Women in Digital Rights Advocacy’ project

The consultancy We are looking to engage an experienced evaluation consultant to carry out an interim and final evaluation of one of our projects. The project, called Empowering Women in Digital Rights Advocacy (EWDRA), is based in sub-Saharan Africa and began late last year. In addition, the consultant will conduct independent research with an intersectional […]

Read

Spying in the digital age: The use of spyware against journalists

Spyware and freedom of expression Encryption is a valuable tool for freedom of expression online. It allows journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and citizens to communicate securely. In recent years however, journalists around the world have experienced increasing digital surveillance, despite encryption becoming more accessible. In particular, investigative journalists uncovering corruption, abuse of power, and […]

Read