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Nigeria: Court Imposes Gag Order on Facebook and Twitter Users

(Mar. 24, 2010) It was reported on March 23, 2010, that a Sharia (Islamic law) court judge in Kaduna State in northern Nigeria issued a restraining order on users of Facebook and Twitter, stopping them from participating in an online forum created by the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria (CRC), a nonprofit organization. The forum was devoted to discussion of Sharia law and the amputation case in 2000 of Buba Bello Jangebe, the first person to have a hand amputated at the wrist on the orders of a Sharia court in Nigeria's Zamfara State, following that state's adoption of stricter Sharia law. (Imam Imam, Sharia Judge Bans Amputation Discussion on Facebook, Twitter, THIS DAY, Mar. 24, 2010, available at http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=169349.) The restraining order was issued in response to an action instituted by a Kaduna-based group called the Association of Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria which argued that the forum would mock the Sharia system. (Nigeria Islamic Court 'Bans Twitter Feed,' BBC, Mar. 23, 2010, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8584707.stm.)

The holding stated that “[a]n order is hereby given restraining the respondents (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 Jangebe,” until a determination is made on the suit instituted by the Association of Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria. (Imam, supra.)

Shehu Sani, President of the CRC, indicated in an interview his organization's plan to challenge the order before higher courts as undue interference with the constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of association. (Id.)

Kaduna and Zamfara are among the 12 Nigerian states that adopted a stricter version of Sharia law in 1999. (Id.)