The media space is flooded with fake stories aimed at demeaning the efforts of security operatives saddled with the responsibility of protecting the nation’s territorial integrity. TARKAA DAVID writes.
The Nigerian State has been grappling with a number of security challenges that require the unwavering commitment of every citizen to address, but sadly, fake news remains a potent and handy tool in the hands of mischief makers trying to destroy the country.
Worried by the menace, the Directorate of Army Public Relations organised a workshop for Public Relations practitioners and online media publishers on fake news.
Declaring the workshop with the theme “Fake News as Threat to National Security: The Way Forward” open, the General Officer Commanding 81 Division Major General MS Yusuf, said some unpatriotic Nigerians have downplayed the level of successes recorded in the various operations undertaken by the military to secure the nation.
Yusuf said more disturbing is the resolve to churn out fake news in a desperate attempt to supplant narrative.
He said the situation has played out particularly in the news media environment and such act must be stopped if the military’s narrative in and out of theater is to be sustained.
“Let me also add that, fake news has eaten deep into all spheres of our national lives as such we must collectively put a stop to it,” he said.
Yusuf averred that the workshop was to galvanise a robust discourse and create the necessary synergy amongst stakeholders in charting the way forward on conscious efforts to stamp out fake news in the society.
According to him, “To our most critical stakeholders in the fight against fake news, I mean our gallant media practitioners, I urge you to see this as a clarion call to our social responsibility to halt this ugly trend. I also want to urge you to discredit fake news in our society and engender positive narratives that will lead to national cohesion and unity. To all the participants I urge you to be realistic in disclosure in the days ahead.
‘’The country has suffered many disasters due to fake news following our differences and intolerant nature.’’
He, however, reiterated the need to halt the ugly trend.
The director, Army public relations, Brig Gen Sani Usman, while addressing the participants said the role of the directorate is critical to public perception and image of the Nigerian Army hence, the need to put to proper perspective, the issue of fake news.
Usman said the misconception and misrepresentation of issues as it affects operations and other military activities when not properly addressed hampers military operational activities and demoralises troops.
He said owing to the negative effects of fake news, there is urgent need to engage the public by telling the true narrative.
He further noted that to effectively arrest the menace, the directorate would need to develop, implement and monitor operational and tactical communication strategies and provide timely advice to all levels of command within the Nigerian Army.
“For you to meet up with these duties, you must keep abreast with contemporary development in the field of public relations, this could be attained through training such as this.
‘’Before the conference, there have been hues and cries about the military not responding to queries directed at them by journalists.
‘’Many of such unanswered queries go to the public without confirmation from the military even when most of such cases have to do with military operations,’’ he said.
Brig Gen Usman recalled that during the DAPR Third and Fourth Quarter Conference 2017, the need to effectively use the social media by the Directorate was re-emphasised.
Consequently, the Directorate has evolved the use of social media to tell the Nigerian Army’s story and also listen through interaction and gauging feedbacks from the public.
He described as heartwarming the response from the public which he said has been encouraging.
However, he noted that a new challenge emerged which is the issue of inaccurate reporting of events that often graduates to sheer fabrication or fake news.
He said to address such trend formed the basis of the media workshop with focus on fake news.
Observers, however, have blamed the military for spearheading the spread of fake news due to its half-truth or total denial of events even when the evidence is overwhelming.
Such acts deny the general public the right to understand what transpires during operations thereby brewing suspicion and lack of trust.
Basically, public relations, according to experts is not about falsehood but putting the organisation’s narrative into the right perspective to gain public acceptance.
For the sake of clarity, it is imperative to define what Public Relations means, “Public relations is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organisation and the public. Public relations may include an organisation or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.”
By the foregoing, many journalists expect more from information handlers in order to properly inform the public rather than describing every effort made to watch over the society a threat to national security.
The general public and the military ought to be co travellers on the journey to securing the security and promoting the right policies for the country.
Brigadier General Usman said the theme “Fake News, A Threat to National Security: The Way Forward” was carefully chosen to drive home the urgent need to address it.
He added that the study period also served as a platform to build capacity in DAPR personnel through intellectual interactions with carefully selected resource persons for these two days.
“From your interactions, you stand to benefit from the wealth of professional experience of the resource persons and guest lecturers on the various topics that aptly address the theme. This training will also provide a good opportunity for the participants to expand their knowledge and exchange ideas that would enhance overall performance in the discharge of assigned tasks. I hope at the end of it we would come out with great strategies that would mitigate the menace of fake news. This will enhance awareness among NA personnel on the effective ways to respond to wrong messages,” he said.
He reiterated that the Directorate was also mindful of the risks associated with fake news hence, the need to set aside this training period to help personnel understand how to liaise with the media and present the true situation of events as they occur. “I urge all participants to make good use of the training opportunity afforded them by this study period to bring out their best in all interactive discussions.
‘’The DAPR will be willing to implement well thought out ideas that emanate from our fruitful deliberations especially if they will enhance the achievement of the COAS vision, which is to have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles,’’ he said.
He expressed optimism that the fruitful deliberations from the Study Period would thoroughly reinvigorate the professional competence of NA public relations practitioners in handling contemporary challenges.
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