by Carol Forsloff – Reporters Without Borders strongly objected to an Islamic court’s ruling yesterday which ordered the Nigerian human rights group, Civil Rights Congress, to stop using Twitter and Facebook to debate Nigeria’s use of amputation to punish theft.
In a strongly-worded statement, Reporters Without Borders declares: “An Islamic court has banned an online debate about the Sharia and human rights for the first time in Nigeria,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This order may be hard to enforce, but there is a real risk that it could encourage widespread self-censorship.” Reporters Without Borders represents a group of reporters who support freedom of news and information across the world and maintains Nigeria’s controls are representative of the mistrust fundamentalists have of online interactivity.The group goes on to say, “We support the Civil Rights Congress in its determination to challenge this decision.” Nigeria has instituted a series of laws under Sharia, targeting homosexuals and instituting harsh punishments that have brought a series of objections from the world’s press, civil rights groups and those representing international justice, such as Amnesty International. Judge Lawal Mohammed of Kaduna’s Magajin Gari court issued an order on March 29 “restraining the respondents [the CRC] either by themselves or their agents from opening a chat forum on Facebook, Twitter, or any blog for the purpose of the debate on the amputation of Malam Buba Bello Jangebe.” Jangebe was the first individual to be punished under the Sharia law allowing amputation for theft. The Brotherhood of Nigeria had asked the court to restrict the activities of the human rights group, the Civil Rights Congress, as a response to its discussions on Facebook and Twitter.
This follows a declaration made by the Catholic Church online on March 15, declaring oppressive nations restrict the use of the Internet in order to exercise control over discussions of human rights. The Church has declared the worst offenders to be China and North Korea. In February this year Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States, praised information-gathering capabilities of the Internet but observed how freedom of information is being restricted, naming recent decisions made by China, Vietnam, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan who have increased censorship of the Internet.