In any society, internal/external security is key. This makes the role of security agencies, especially that of the army very sacred and important. The army, in order to succeed in its operations, mostly classified its information.
The Nigerian Army, like its counterparts elsewhere, often don’t give out information on its planned operations. Trained to protect the country from external and internal aggression, the Nigerian Army, most times deploy tactics that to the ordinary citizen or civilian is inhuman.
Only recently, Amnesty International accused the Nigerian Army, which have been combating Boko Haram insurgents in the North East, of inhuman treatments and abuses of rights of citizens.
Most media reports and analysis of their operations are more or less exaggeration. But for the media, whose primary function is to inform the public, the secrecy with which the army operates is sometimes a hindrance. Thus, although both are working for the good of the country, there is clash of interest that leads to a ‘we versus them’ relationship.
It was against this backdrop that the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army recently organised a two-day training and workshop for Senior Army Personnel and journalists in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The workshop x-rayed the need for collaboration between the media and the army for national security and concluded that both parties manage information in a way that protects Nigeria’s interest both locally and the internationally.
In his paper titled: “Media Report on Nigerian Army Activities And Its Impact On National Security, the Grand Officer Commanding (GOC) Division 82 of the Nigerian Army, Maj Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, said though the primary function of the mass media is to inform, educate and entertain the public, the first essential in military operations is that no information of value shall be given to the enemy.
The GOC said both the media and the Nigerian Army have a common goal of protecting Nigeria’s interest, though through different forms. He dismissed the portrayal of the Nigerian Army by the Western world media as weak, violators of human rights, occupation army, among others.
“A brief analysis of media reports on NA activities revealed that a critical mass of the media knowingly or unknowingly framed most reports on the NA in negative narratives. These narratives, which are pervasive and persistent over the years includes, ‘we versus them’ frame, the narrative of a weak army, human rights violator and an army of occupation among others.
“In war and other combat operations like counter insurgency, a nation state is fighting for its survival. This means that losing the war places the nation and its citizens including media practitioners in mortal danger. This is why the trinity of the Government, the People and the Army must form a unified front as they confront a common enemy.
“Military historians have noted the iron clad unity of the trinity in the US in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attack. The American media expeditiously placed the American government, citizens and their army on one side against the terrorists. Indeed, analysis attributed the successes recorded by the Bush Administration to this solidarity despite the shortcomings recorded later.
“In the case of Nigeria’s war on terror, a study of media reports on the NA operations against Boko Haram Terrorists from 2009-2015 will reveal the opposite of the US case. A critical mass of the Nigerian media buoyed by some external partners immediately placed Nigerian government and the army on one side against the terrorists while the Nigerian citizens were left on the side-line both as a victim and as a spectator”, he argued.
“When the enduring stories on the media about the Nigeria Army, NA, are positive, Nigeria’s security will be enhanced. Conversely, a negative report on the NA will impact negatively on Nigeria’s national security.”
According to Maj Gen Attahiru, the pervasive roles the media plays in shaping the perception, behaviour and actions of all stake holders in the society place it at a commanding height of national security in COE that modern militaries operate. “Media is important to national security as a key terrain in the battle field, a patriotic institution and a nation builder, among others, when its informational powers are exploited positively”, he said.
He also agreed that some of the media reports on Nigerian Army operations have yielded positive impacts on the country. “The trinity for success in military operations, the government, the citizens and their army are now united in the war against terrorists.
“Media framing of the IDPs and the efforts of the military to assist them has brought the plight of a socially excluded group to the attention of both international and domestic philanthropists. This has led to an exponential increase in donations to the NE reconstruction and terrorist victims’ fund. The national security implication of this is that the millions that would have been exposed to economic and social insecurity are rescued.
“Additionally, the potential of terrorists recruiting the poor and traumatized youths among the IDPs would be reduced. Therefore, media exposure of the plight of IDPs and other victims of terrorist action and the effort of the NA to assist them has impacted positively on national security.”
Maj Gen Attahiru recommended special defence honour, training and education for journalists on national security, development of media strategy for all Nigerian Army operational activities, among others.
“The establishment of a Defence Hall of Fame, DHF, for excellent national security reporting for reporters, editors and media owners, is a good incentive to sustain responsible reporting on NA activities. When the media practitioners see themselves recognised and rewarded for their work on national security, they are encouraged to present the NA in a positive frame.
“Planners need to develop a media strategy for all NA activities. This has become necessary since the media have pervasive influence on what stakeholders in the operational environment think, believe and act,” he said.
On his part, the Rivers State Co-ordinator of the International Institute of Journalism, IIJ, Mr Ibituru Pepple, who lectured on the topic: Military-Media Relationship: Key To Effective Information Management in the Niger Delta”, attributed the military’s mistrust of the media to lack of understanding of the role of the press and ignorance of some of the mechanical constraint, like deadlines.
“The security forces are yet to learn how to handle Journalists professionally and responsibly. In fact, there is a great deal of distrust and apathy between the press and the military. The obvious truth is that, the military has to reduce the level of tension that exists between them and the press. It will be a mere theory to talk about synergy, if efforts are not made by both parties to reduce the already strained relationship which has generated much tension.
Pepple submitted that media role in relation to the government is seen as being either that of a lap dog or an attack dog but rather, a watch dog. “Since the media considers it has a ‘Journalistic responsibility to probe, challenge and criticize institutions and public official, it uses its role of watch dog of government policies and activities to educate and inform the public at large.
“Again, since profit drives most news media, they tend to provide whatever sells; this includes spectacular, titillating, eye catching or sensational stories, where the truth, accuracy, or context can sometimes become a secondary consideration. Deadlines and headlines are extremely important, unfortunately, good news is rarely deemed worthy of headlines, and so the media persistently resort to stories of scandal, incompetence, fraud, waste or mistreatment; real or imagined.
“The media do not always understand the constraint placed on the commander, since military business is based on security, officers’ training teaches them that secrecy is the essence of successful warfare. Therefore, the importance of operational security and the potential risks associated with the release of information – where a soldier’s survival could be at stake – must be clearly explained to reporters covering a mission.”
The IIJ Co-Ordinator, therefore, suggested that the military needs to create a viable public relations/press unit to interface with journalists and the outside world and create a friendlier military with a human face.
“There is the need for the continuous use of ‘embedded reporters’, expanding on the current programme to ensure coverage to include; post hostility phase, develop a more proactive approach towards dealing with the media.
“Having distinguished one institution from the other, it is the conclusion of this paper that the newsman and military officer consider many of the same qualities to be important in their respective profession: initiative, responsibility, professionalism, dedication, efficiency teamwork delegation of authority, self-discipline, forward planning and flexibility. Both professions are highly structured and unique, possess a distinct code of ethics, and rely on teamwork to get job done.
The IIJ Co-Ordinator, therefore, recommended that a more transparent and robust relationship be built between the military with their media counterparts. “The military should consider information as vital in all its operations.
The media should balance its reportage of the activities of the military so as to avoid tension along the line of duties. The level of mistrust between the media and the military is bridged with a more robust relationship based on mutual trust”, he added.

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