By Johnson Eyiangho
#TrackNigeria: A Military/Media Conference held in Abuja has urged media professionals and the military to share the responsibility of protecting national security because it supersedes all interests.
The call forms part of recommendations contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the two-day conference.
The theme of the conference was: “Enhancing Media-Military relationship for effective fight against terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria.’’
It was organised by the Nigerian Army in collaboration with 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 conference recommended that the military should appreciate and support journalists to fulfill their constitutional mandates of informing the citizenry as well as respect journalists’ professionalism.
The communiqué added that the military must respect the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources of information.
“Media professionals need to improve public understanding that the Nigerian State is at war and that both the Nigerian military and media are focused on playing their crucial roles to win the war against terrorism.
“The war against 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 Army and Boko Haram terrorists group.’’
The communiqué also recommended strategic handling of reports of activities of terrorists and insurgents to decrease fear in the populace and weaken the recruitment and financing base of the criminals.
It said in order to close any perceived information gap and mitigate the spread of fake news, stakeholders should crosscheck, fact-check and evaluate information received before publishing to avoid disinformation and misinformation.
The document, therefore, called on the Nigerian army to provide timely and accurate information in accessible locations.
It said the locations should include online sites for cross referencing of information on the army’s activities related to the war by the media and other interested stakeholders.
It noted that that social media influencers and citizen journalists were strategic partners hence the military should embed them in their routine process of intelligence gathering and information sharing.
“There is the need, therefore, for media professionals to always ensure they do not allow grudges against civil authorities to translate to bad press for the military.’’
The conference observed that the fight against terrorism and insurgency was relatively new to both the military and media.
It said, this had resulted in occasional strains in the relationship between the two in the course of carrying out their duties.
It further observed: “The Media and military have been collaborating in the fight against terrorism and insurgency, however, there is no consensus on the challenges and expectations placed on each other.
“The perceived posture of the military as the sole defender of national security often isolates the media and the attitude of some of the media, breeds mutual suspicion and weakens the needed collaboration between the military and the Nigerian media.”
The conference also observed that improper handling of strategic information could amplify activities of terrorists and insurgents, spread fear in the citizens, jeopardise military plans, and dampen troops’ morale.
It added that improper handling of information could also inadvertently guarantee additional financing and recruitment base for the insurgents.
The communiqué noted that publication of unverified information on social media or the conventional mass media may constitute threats to national security.
It said this also unintentionally promote terrorist propaganda, reveal military strategies, and jeopardise the safety of military personnel.
It stressed that,“Freedom of expression has constitutional limits when it poses clear threats to national security.
“Media reportage shapes perception about Nigeria and Nigerians internationally. Therefore, caution is required, considering the implications of such reports.’’ (NAN)