Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Chief of Army Staff, Lt.General Yusuf Buratai, Thursday restated the commitment of the military establishment to bring to an end terrorism and insurgency in the North-east and warned against the leakage of operational plans of the military in the media
Speaking at the event organised by the Directorate of Army Public Relations in collaboration with Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Guild of Corporate Online Publishers and Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria in Abuja, Buratai said ending terrorist intransigence in the North-east was topmost priority.
“Let me use this opportunity to stress that the commitment of the Nigerian Army to maintain cordial and mutual relationship to enable it end terrorism and insurgency and enhance national security is our top most priority.
“Therefore, your effective reportage of the campaign against insurgency, restoration of peace in the North-east and protection of lives and properties in the country will go a long way to counter the terrorist narrative”, he said.
The army chief said the leakage of operational plans of the military in the media was inimical to national security.
“It is pertinent to note that not all information regarding military operations will be made available to you, due to some obvious reasons.
“This is because we are also ‘gatekeepers’ in keeping secret of vital military operations for national security. “However, when such operations are conducted, relevant details will be made available to the media for public consumption.
“It is important to note that the leakage of vital information on military operation like the ongoing fight against the Boko Haram terrorists is inimical to national security as this will give our position to the terrorists and give them upper hand in their psychological war against the troops,” he said.
Buratai noted that there was the need to check the spate of terrorists’ propaganda, which was inimical to the successful implementation of the counter insurgency campaign, adding that “the effort of the military to ensure peace and security in our country is a constitutional responsibility which requires support from all sectors to make Nigeria safe from all forms of criminalities”.
The Special Guest of Honour and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also cautioned the media not to allow hate merchants to use their platforms to propagate fake news and hate speech.
“There are serious lessons to be learnt from what happened in Rwanda, during the genocide. Ask yourself if any journalist was able to practice journalism while that war lasted. Yet, the genocide was caused by inability of the Rwandan media to ensure their platforms were not used by hate merchants in propagating fake news and hate speech.
“Unfortunately, even in the mainstream media today, some of our papers and broadcast houses allow that kind of thing,” he said.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information, Deaconess Grace Isu Gekpe, the minister urged the media not to extend their alleged hatred of the incumbent administration to the security agencies, arguing that governments serve out their tenure but the security services remain.
The keynote speaker and former Director General, Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA), Dr. Tony Iredia, said the conference created a veritable platform for two great national institutions-the military and the media to rub minds on national security imperative, saying the only way out of media-military conundrum is not intimidation or isolation but robust partnership that would dispel sensationalism and speculative journalism on military operations.
He counselled military information managers to desist from denial of obvious facts in the interest of credibility and openness, saying that the statement celebrating the recapturing of Baga by Nigerian army was self-indicting.
Earlier in his address of welcome, the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, said the conference was aimed at deepening military-media relationship for enhanced national security in the country, Nigeria, adding that the initiative was borne out of the belief that if there was greater collaboration and understanding between the military and the media, Nigerian society would be better protected and secured.
Usman said the Nigerian Army wanted the media to have a clear understanding of how the military system works, especially during operations such as the fight against terrorism and insurgency.