Recently, the Nigerian Army hosted a conference of its principal officers, led by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, and the top echelon of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) and Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria (GPBN). The theme of the conference was “Enhancing Media-Military Relationship for Effective Fight against Terrorism and Insurgency in Nigeria”.
Some of the issues highlighted at the conference had to do with the code of ethics for journalism practice in the country. While a large segment of the media performs its roles responsibly, there are those who exhibit not too acceptable professional behaviour. For this latter group, it is up to the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Unión of Journalists to rise to the occasion and rid the profession of quacks who are already causing untold damage to their hard-earned image.
A key aspect of the code of ethics emphasizes the need not to publish any news that can be injurious to the society. It is heart-warming that the conference extensively dwelt on that and saw the need for media practitioners to always be mindful not to play into the hands of the terrorists who thrive on publicity, and who inadvertently get free publicity for their nefarious activities from a section of the media.
Though the need for the Nigerian military to remain apolitical and deeply professional had since been stressed by the service chiefs, the military will do well to fish out from its ranks senior officers who leak information to achieve political ends or undermine the civilian and military leadership.
Another good thing that came out of the conference is the need for the military to stop seeing itself as more patriotic than the media. In the defence of Nigeria’s interests, both have paid the supreme price at various times in the nation’s history. Both the media and the military should, therefore, see themselves as partners, rather than adversaries. A dangerous phenomenon that came to light at the conference is the tendency of some media practitioners not to make a distinction between civil authorities and the armed forces. Whereas civil authorities come and go, the military has remained in existence for over 150 years. If, therefore, there are practitioners that have any axe to grind with civil authority, they should refrain from lumping the military, especially the Army, into it.
It is commendable that the conference recognised the fact that the Nigerian Army and the Media have complementary constitutional roles that border on national security, information management, peace and safety of Nigerians.
It was also pointed out that the fight against terrorism and insurgency is relatively new to both the military and media, resulting in occasional strain in their relationship.
Another sore issue that came out of the conference is that the publication of unverified information on social media or the conventional mass media, tends to constitute threats to national security and unintentionally promote terrorist propaganda, reveal military strategies and jeopardize the safety of military personnel.
We commend the organisers of the conference for taking this bold step towards winning the war against insurgency through an enduring positive relationship between the Nigerian media and the Army.
As a newspaper, we need to point out that improper handling of strategic information could amplify the activities of terrorists and insurgents, spread fear in the minds of citizens, jeopardise military plans, and dampen troops’ morale, thus, inadvertently guaranteeing additional financing and recruitment base for the insurgents.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA), which the conference rightly observed as not being fully involved in managing the perception of the populace regarding the ongoing war on terrorism and insurgency, should as a matter of urgency be strengthened to do more in reorienting the populace in such a way as to garner more support for the military and deepen patriotism among compatriots.
We agree with the view expressed at the conference that the war on terrorism, insurgency and violent crimes should always be appropriately framed as a war between Nigeria and the criminals which affects every fabric of our society and not a detached war between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram terrorists. Thus any collaboration between the Armed Forces and other segments of the society, especially the media, toward ending the insurgency, in our view, is worthwhile.
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