Paradigm Initiative has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Nigerian Communications Commission asking the Commission to release information on alleged blocking of online news sites. The request was filed by the digital rights advocacy organisation today at the Abuja headquarters of the Commission, giving the Commission seven (7) days as stipulated by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, to release information on the alleged attempts to block domain names of online newspapers.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Tribune exclusively reported on Sunday, October 5, 2017 “that the government, through the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), has engaged the services of a firm in Lagos to block the domain names of “several identified websites threatening national security.”
The newspaper further alleged that Commission wrote a memo to the firm, directing it “to immediately take steps to restrict access within the Nigerian cyberspace in respect of 21 (twenty one) additional websites by blocking the domain names. (The list of websites is attached).”
According to Adeboye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s Program Manager, “the phrase “additional websites” in the memo indicates that there are other websites already marked for illegal censorship through an equally illegal blockage of their domain names. If this is true, then this would be a clear indication of this government’s anti-free speech agenda”
“It has been six days since Tribune published its story and NCC has not come out to deny the story. This is why we have filed this FoI request. NCC cannot wish this report away; the commission has to come out and address Nigerians on the issue”
In the FoI request, Paradigm Initiative asks NCC to provide it with answers to the following questions: Is the Nigeria Communications Commission or any of its agents in the process of taking steps to block or restrict the domain names of certain websites? If yes, what websites would be affected? What criteria were employed in selecting these websites? Under what legal provision is this being carried out?
According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “it goes without saying that blocking the domain names of newspapers is a brazen violation of the right to Freedom of Expression as guaranteed not only by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but also by international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.”