Media and security professionals on Thursday, April 15, during a virtual panel session, discussed the relationship between the media and national security in Nigeria.
The Webinar on Mass Media and the Intersection of National Security and Civic Space in Nigeria was organised by the Whiteink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER) with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)
HumAngle monitored the dialogue which was opened by Saleh Bala, a retired Brigadier General and the President and Founder of WISER, and moderated by Nnenna Ijeoma Elendu Ukeje, a former Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The guest speaker, Abdulrahman Dambazau, a retired general and one time Nigerian Army chief, during his presentation, stated that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” adding, “the media is a very powerful tool for both the citizens and the government, if properly used for its purpose for national development.”
He noted that the mass media power is subject to abuses and misuse, just like governments are also subject to abuses of the citizens’ rights, especially in non-democratic or underdeveloped nations.
Dambazau, also a former Minister of Interior, explained that the mass media can play a huge role in ensuring national security if it concentrates on the issues of good governance, especially as it relates to the issues of human security, following the 1994 UNDP re-definition of national security, to include both “freedom for fear” and “freedom from want.”
“This is especially because at the roots of most of the national, regional, and even global challenges are issues of poverty, illiteracy, hunger, diseases, unemployment, environmental degradation, corruption, etc,” he said.
Dambazau further stated that to be credible, the mass media needs to be transparent and objective in reporting and publishing, to give the public the trust and confidence required for its contributions to national development.
He lamented that “in Nigeria, for example, we generally see a divided media along regional, ethnic and religious lines, and the readership also reflects these divisions.”
Cheta Nwanze, the Lead Partner at SBM Intelligence in his discussion said the pen, can also be used to build, not just the man, but his environment, and his descendants. So the pen’s role is vital in shaping our country, not just for us, but for our children.
He pointed out the importance of the media for accountability and promoting peace in the county.
“In Nigeria, one of the ways in which to sink money without accountability is through a security budget.”
“It is on this same premise of a lack of accountability that has led to a media blackout in the Northeast. One of the greatest mass atrocities in Borno–the Rann Bombing in 2017–came to light because of sustained media campaigns.”
He highlighted that because of the media blackout, reportage of abuses from that section of the country has ranged from low to nonexistent, even more damning was the restriction of aid agencies which would have ordinarily filled in this gap.
“These kinds of restrictions end up creating a bitterness that isn’t seen, and which creates more violence, sustaining a vicious cycle,” he noted.
Other panellists were Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, the former Director, Public Relations of the Nigerian Army who spoke on the impact of social media on security and peace. Emeka Izeze, a fellow of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs also emphasized the nexus between the media, government and security.
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