Peoples Gazette, an online news media firm, has been forced by the Nigerian Government to change its web address based on an unknown accusation.
It was alleged that the government had conspired with telecommunications firms to deny a broad majority of its readers’ access to its news content.
Since 2020 when it was founded, the platform has been critical of the current administration’s activities and policies.
On Jan. 27, Samuel Ogundipe, the Managing Editor, of the media organisation alleged interference, which started on Tuesday evening and based it on a directive from the Nigerian Government to MTN, Glo Mobile and other telecom firms.
“Our internal assessments and notes from our readers indicate a total restriction on our website for people connecting via MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel, i.e.: a vast majority of Nigerian Internet users,” Ogundipe said.
He added that the restriction was an intentional act by the government.
“We have strong grounds to believe that it (the restriction) was deliberate, based on the preliminary conclusion of webmasters.”
For this, the firm has created an alternative route for the readers to access its content. However, these have consistently been frustrated by telecommunication firms.
Ogundipe pointed out that the organisation has contacted some of the telecoms firms’ executives to resolve the interference.
The issue of censorship of news website is not new with this administration. In 2017, numerous websites and online newspapers were shut down. This was based on the fact that they were considered threats to national security.
On Nov 3, 2017, a directive was issued by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to block out 21 newspaper domains from the public saying they were linked to “pro-Biafran” websites.
Call To Govt To Release Peoples Gazette’s Website
Meanwhile, Paradigm Initiative, a digital space advocacy group has asked the government to restore the newspaper’s website and allow access to it by readers.
A statement by Valery Njiaba, Communications Officer, noted that freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of democracy, “one that we must fiercely protect”.
The organisation warned that “Any attempt at shutting down the press is outrightly illegal and a violation of the freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without inference, protected by section 39 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(As amended)”.
“It further dampens the fundamental objectives contained in Section 22 of the Constitution that gives the press, and other agencies of the mass media the duty to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government.”
It noted that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, “has in many ways proven to be against press freedom and internet freedom,” by carrying out moves interpreted as a clampdown on democracy, in a democratic system.
Paradigm initiative said: “in its consistent commitment to protect and defend digital rights condemns in the strongest terms these acts by the Nigerian government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)”.
According to the digital right advocacy organisation, it has engaged the NCC in the past on the same subject and would continue to do so.
“We must continue to actively engage the system to preserve all the elements that make us a democracy. Our tool as a people remains the law and must engage the law for our country to work for us,” Paradigm Initiative said.
“Notably, the clamp down on the media in Nigeria continues because of the scepticism of citizens, institutions, and the victims of these violations to engage the judicial system to seek redress.”
“All hands need to be on deck to push back on what has now become the government’s playbook in shutting down opposing voices. Paradigm Initiative and many other concerned organizations are willing to support platforms that are victims of government censorship to get judicial redress. We call on all meaningful Nigerians to support these efforts at curtailing the excesses of the government and its attack on the freedom of the press and the Internet.”
“We equally urge the Nigerian authorities to respect and enforce their citizens’ right to access to information, the rights of freedom of expression and opinion as assured and protected by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution(as amended).”
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