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Free Speech, Censorship and Democratic Freedom (2)

 

As highlighted in the first part of this article, going by the flurry of such actions in recent time, the verdict was easy to reach. The inference pointed to one of the government regulatory/oversight bodies (ONSA, NBC, NCC) requesting that the mobile telecom internet service providers halt internet access to The People’s Gazette.


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What if the case of The People’s Gazette is just a test case to see the reaction of Nigerians to such censorship, and the government deals a bigger blow by shutting down the entire internet in Nigeria next time they want to muzzle an online movement?

A similar scenario played out in the general elections which took place in Uganda this January. First, Twitter and Facebook decided to remove/de-platform some government-backed social media profiles which they claimed spread misinformation before the elections. Without much ado, the government equally banned indefinitely the two social networks from operating within the country, stating that the social network companies were biased in their assessment.

This scenario brings into context the entire topic and the connections between free speech, censorship and the unlimited powers of democratic freedom.

It was said that any sweeping powers in the hands of a group will be eventually abused and used to oppress/suppress another vulnerable group. We have now seen that in play.


 

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In a statement by the People’s Gazette confirming the Denial of Service to their website, they denounced the attempt to muzzle them from exposing the shady dealings within corrupt corridors of power:

“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.”

And truly, within the short time of their existence in the media space, the online newspaper has been unmatched in their investigative reports on governments as well as educating Nigerians on civics.

Even a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Gatefield Co, amongst others, had to condemn the latest prank by the government bodies.

“The attempt to suppress Peoples Gazette belongs to the past. With the proliferation of Virtual Private Networks and encrypted browsers, this bid to censor the truth is a failed one.”

Once a government or a private body subjects a group or individual to such censure, it becomes an attack on the fundamental rights of such affected group. Such environment ceases to exist in the form of a truly democratic society but of a banana republic. And such bodies or government denying the people unimpeded access to information and/or platforms quickly becomes dictatorial.

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Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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