CW 23/2021: Boycotted
Press Review 5 June 2021 to 11 June 2021

Nigeria suspends social network Twitter

Last Friday, the Nigerian government announced it had indefinitely blocked the social network Twitter and prosecuted all those, including broadcasters, who continue to use the platform. The government would not tolerate any actions by Twitter that could undermine Nigeria’s “corporate existence” and thereby destabilise the country. Two days earlier, a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari was deleted for abusive behaviour and his user account was suspended for twelve hours. He is accused of inciting violence against a secessionist movement in the southeast of the country. However, the Nigerian government denies any connection between these two events. More than 39 million Nigerians, that is about 20% of the total population, use Twitter to inform themselves on political matters, but also to organise protests against the government, among other things. However, the blocking is also expected to have economic consequences for the West African country, as Nigeria’s attractiveness as a technology location could suffer as a result of the state’s intervention. In addition, young people in particular use Twitter as a source of income, so that according to estimates, Nigeria loses about five million euros per day. Although the blocking of access can be circumvented by a simple add-on programme, a virtual private network (VPN), the legal consequences remain. Accordingly, resistance is increasing in the country. In addition to local protests, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil society organisation, joined forces with 176 other citizens and filed a joint complaint with ECOWAS to have the ban lifted. While the EU, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US issued a joint press release opposing the blocking of Twitter and the associated restriction of press freedom, former US President Donald Trump threw his weight behind Buhari and called on other countries to follow Nigeria’s lead. His own accounts on both Twitter and Facebook had been deleted after the storming of the capitol earlier this year. On Wednesday, the Nigerian government announced that it would only unblock Twitter on the condition that the company, which is currently only based in Ghana on the African continent, officially register in Nigeria and apply for a licence from the broadcasting commission.


Parliamentary elections in Algeria 

This Saturday, a new parliament will be elected early in Algeria. The last time the National People’s Assembly was elected was in 2017 under then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Bouteflika, who ruled for a total of twenty years, had resigned in April 2019 after months of peaceful street protests (known as Hirak, Arabic for “movement”) against political stagnation in the country. In December 2019, a new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, was elected into office, but turnout remained very low after almost the entire political opposition in the country called for a boycott of the presidential election. A similar situation is now expected for the early parliamentary election, which was originally scheduled for May 2022. On the one hand, Tebboune had dissolved the National People’s Assembly in February 2021 and announced new elections for the summer in response to mounting pressure from the population and a new wave of protests. Progressive electoral laws should also appeal to young people in particular and take the wind out of the Hirak‘s sails. For example, there is to be gender parity among female and male candidates, and candidates under 40 were to receive 2,255 US dollars for campaign expenses. However, the population continues to complain about the dominance of the old political class and the military, which is why the past months have been marked by renewed protest rallies by Hirak activists. In addition to the demands for a new political beginning, the demonstrators also complain about the continuing economic hardship in the country, which is worsening due to the economic consequences of the Corona-pandemic. For weeks, the Algerian authorities have been reacting to the ongoing protests with harsh repressive measures, such as investigations against demonstrators, party bans, police violence and arrests. Against this background, the parties that are close to the Hirak in terms of content do not see the framework conditions for a democratic vote and are therefore united in boycotting the elections this Saturday which calls into question to what extent the elections can contribute to the political stabilisation of the country.


In other news

A virtual photo exhibition on the theme of “Women in African Music” has been jointly launched by the Sounds of Africa platform and British-Nigerian photographer Michael Tubes. The project aims to celebrate female artists and those behind the scenes who otherwise often remain in the background. In this way, it aims to highlight the issue of equality in the African music industry. In addition, Tubes, who worked on the project for a total of ten years, wants to draw attention to the many challenges, such as hate comments online, that African female musicians often face. This year’s exhibition is dedicated to three female dancers who passed away in 2020: Kodak from Nigeria, Nicole from Ghana and Drey from Cameroon. Anyone interested can view the exhibition until the end of this month at and enjoy a fascinating 3D experience.

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