Human rights are under siege today, principally because third world governments are failing to uphold their primary international obligation to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the universal declaration on human rights. Human rights are increasingly choked by impunity, erosion of democratic values, conflict, corruption, crime, war, inadequate laws, unwillingness and inability to enforce laws. These conditions persist in democratic environments because the meanings of democracy and governance are increasingly lost on political leaders.
In Nigeria, elections are a ‘do or die affair’ as an instance because politicians in a bid to perpetuate their stay in power, subvert a right of the people to choose their elected representatives. This criminal politics ensures the unfortunate loss of lives and property before, during, and after election cycles. When and if the images are captured on Social Media, they expose the scale of atrocities and provide facts that can be of use in a functional criminal justice system.
A corruption case detailing how billions of Nigerian Naira (millions of dollars) was diverted via an arms deal saw to a poorly equipped Nigerian armed forces and rendered the fight against insurgency in the country’s North East ineffective. The consequence was the Nigerian Government’s inability to guarantee the protection of its citizens which caused an increase in the number of internally displaced Nigerians in the North East of the country. Images from IDP camps captured on camera phones bear testimony to this. In 2015, the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai vowed that there would be no violations of human rights under his watch. A day after his pledge, a group of Nigerian soldiers was caught on a camera phone, brutalising a civilian.
Researchers like Ericsson predicted that a billion phones were expected to be in use in Africa in 2016. This growth to an extent was attributed to the rise of social media accessed from a range of cheap smart phones. The central argument is that in as much as Governments are primary duty bearers, everyone is a human rights duty bearer especially with the anticipated proliferation of affordable phones. Political leaders can be held accountable when potential and actual victims of human rights abuses act and prevent the violations from occurring. Social media in effective use (through the publishing of images of rights violations like abuse and violence perpetrated against citizens) can be a stimulated form of citizen journalism and an innovative way of reporting on and thereby preventing human rights violations.
The thinking in most human rights situations is that those who act with impunity do so largely on the ignorance and general thought of powerlessness of the victims. Yet, the more enlightened citizens are of their rights and of how to expose the actions of the violators, the stronger they are. Social media is one of such tools that put power back in the hands of the citizen in a fledgling democracy like Nigeria’s.