Military monitors Nigerians on Social Media, Human Rights Activists say It’s against Freedom of Speech



THE ACTIVITIES of Nigerians on the social media are now being monitored for hate speech, anti-government and anti-security information by the military. Major-General John Enenche, Social Media Network director of Defence Information, told Channels Television that the move became necessary in the light of troubling activities and misinformation capable of jeopardising the unity of the country.

His comments came less than 48 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari said in his national broadcast that some of the discussion on social media in his absence crossed the line and left him distressed.

For Major General Enenche, the social media has always been a challenge all over the world and for the military, it is not different. “It is a double-edged sword and we are also having a bit of it,” he said when he appeared on Channels Television’s News At 10, hours after President Buhari met with service chiefs and ordered them to strengthen their operations.

“Imagine when the President came back and addressed the nation, not up to 30 minutes later, a fake speech of the Commander-In-Chief was being circulated in order to do what? To derail the people. If you are not very sharp and if you didn’t listen to the speech or you don’t have a copy of it like I had it almost immediately, you wouldn’t know. So, looking at it from that perspective, it is a challenge everywhere.”

Having observed the possibility that the social media can be misused the military has taken steps to address that. One of such steps is the establishment of strategic media centres.

“What are we doing? In the military, we are now taking on it more seriously than ever. We have our strategic media centres that monitor the social media to be able to sieve out and react to all the ones that will be anti-government, be anti-military, (and) be anti-security,” the military chief continued.

“We tackle them appropriately with appropriate responses. Ahead of that, we are also proactive. We have measures in place, scientific measures to be able to sieve this information and also to get the public and let them know that some of this information they are getting is not genuine are not true and their objective is an anti-corporate existence of this country.”

However, human rights activists have criticised the action of the military. Yinka Odumakin, national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Yoruba socio-cultural group, and Mike Ozekhome (SAN), constitutional lawyer, on Wednesday explained that there was no constitutional backing for the military to embark on such activities.

Odumakin said: “Have they defeated Boko Haram bombing in Borno? There are much more important things the military need to do now.

“They should go and bring Shekau; they declared him dead several times, but he is still alive on social media. If the military wants to monitor social media, they should go after Shekau.”

According to Odumakin, “Any attempt to use force to suppress citizens would not be good. I task the military to concentrate on terror and herdsmen killing people. It is very important to ask them if we are in a democracy. If we have constitutional rule, which rule empowers the military, even the 1999 Constitution, they should show the provision where it stipulates that the military should monitor Nigerians and issues on social media.”

Also, Ozekhome said: “I do not subscribe to the monitoring of social media activities by the Nigerian military and DHQ, as this constitutes a violent and blatant violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Coming from a government that has covered its ineptitude with mindless repression, intolerance and allergy to opposition, criticism and plurality of alternative voices, such monitoring would further muzzle the people, especially the opposition.

“It is reminiscent of the then General Buhari’s Decree 4, which criminalised truth if such truth was embarrassing to the government. This government makes no presence of yearning for the dark days and locust years of military tyranny and dictatorship where the citizens, under WAI, were openly humiliated and flogged on their bare buttocks. May God never bring back such gory days of dehumanisation,” Ozekhome stated.
– Aug 24, 2017 @ 18:38 GMT



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