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‘Distrust of journalists aids insecurity’

By Njadvara Musa, Maiduguri
26 September 2016   |   2:06 am
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State has said that distrust of Nigerian journalists end up working against efforts of the military and security agencies in the country.
Governor Kashim Shettima

Governor Kashim Shettima

Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State has said that distrust of Nigerian journalists end up working against efforts of the military and security agencies in the country. He noted that those in control of sensitive information do not take journalists into confidence because they erroneously believe journalists lack the capacity to handle the facts.

Shettima stated this last week at a workshop on synergy between the media and the military, jointly organised by the 7th Division of Nigerian Army and Borno State council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) held in Maiduguri. The workshop was attended by senior Military and para-military ‎officials, including the theatre commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Irabor as well as the G.O.C 7th Division and officials from outside the State.

Shettima spoke after a paper delivered by former Defense spokesman, Retired General Chris Olukolade, whose presentation portrayed the Nigerian media as mostly working against efforts by the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram across the northeast. The governor, in his address, said in developed countries, the media is often taken into confidence and told the truth about security
situations with the understanding that the media could manage their reports in ways that do not undermine security interests.

In his words: “I had asked myself many times that why was it that in developed countries, presidents and other leaders would go to places like Afghanistan and Iraq to meet with their soldiers at the battle front but such visits would not be instantly reported by leading media houses of the world like the CNN, BBC, New York Times, Aljazeera, Reuters, AFP and other media establishments.

“Reports about these visits would mostly be made public only days after the visit of the president or when the media is sure that the safety of the presidents at the front lines in Afghanistan would not
be compromised. A lot of us have heard how the CNN reported meetings between President Obama and troops in battlefields only days after such visits.

“The international media completely shielded Prince Harry when he was fighting as a soldier and a member of the British troops in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2008. He was only reported 10 weeks into his deployment after leaving dangerous points in Afghanistan. Let us now compare this with a classical situation in Nigeria. When President Goodluck Jonathan was said to be planning to visit Chibok in 2014, the trip was instantly revealed by virtually all Nigerian media houses even when at that time, the visit was supposed to be a secret one in order not to compromise the safety of the president given the strength of the Boko Haram at that time.

“So, like I said at the beginning, I had asked myself, ‘what was it that made the international media concealed President Obama’s and Prince Harry’s visits to Afghanistan and what was it that made our major media houses to act differently by revealing President Goodluck Jonathan’s planned visit to Chibok?’

“One of the journalists told me that the reason why the international media don’t give instant or live reports concerning the visits of presidents and world leaders to any dangerous places is because the international media houses are taken into confidence by those in charge of managing the information on the side of the world leaders.”

The international media, according to him, are told well in advance about such plans and are requested to give blackouts or delayed report instead of real time.

“At most, the media houses would mostly request that their reporters cover the trip or that clips are given to them at the same time without giving undue advantage to any media house so that all of them can break the news simultaneously after the visit,” explained the governor yesterday.

On journalists’ setbacks, Shettima said: “If you compare that strategy with our case, it becomes clear that we mostly try to hide important steps from the Nigerian media. We try to beat the media by keeping our plans away from them, with a wrong notion that our journalists do not have the capacity to know that which we hide from them.

“The worst assumption any news-maker can ever have is to assume that journalists lacks the capacity to find out what is being kept away from them. In the relationship between the news-maker and the journalist, the news-maker mostly wants to be the one to give out what he wants the journalist to know while on the other hand, the job of the journalist is not just to report what the news-maker tells but be more curious about what the news-maker didn’t tell, what the news-maker doesn’t want to tell and why he doesn’t want to tell.

“This is always the mindset of a good journalist. So, what is the way out? The way out is to tell the journalist the whole story, the whole truth and seek his or her understanding in managing the truth.”

Shettima, however, cautioned journalists against being used by Boko Haram insurgents to fight psychological warfare using videos.

According to him: “The Boko Haram insurgents are always coming up with psychological warfare strategies. What we must know is that for every video that the Boko Haram releases, they are using such videos as weapons in their fight. The videos are weapons in psychological warfare with the intention of slowing down our troops, showing strength on the part of the insurgents in order to instill fear in the public, instill fear in our troops, instill fear in us the leaders and instill fear in you the journalist who constitute members of the most strategic public.

“When the journalists help to propagate insurgents warfare, the journalists himself is not spared after all. When Boko Haram was planning a suicide attack on the busy Emab shopping Plaza in Abuja, they didn’t care whether a senior editor of New Telegraph was going to be affected. They attacked that Plaza in June 2014 and Suleiman Bisalla, a Deputy Editor, was one of those killed in Abuja.

“The same thing happened in Kano when Enenche Akogwu, a reporter and cameraman with Channels TV was killed during attacks by Boko Haram on January 20, 2012 in Kano. The instances are many and this is why the journalist must see his or herself as an important stakeholder in national security, as someone who has a role to play in discouraging the propaganda of Boko Haram.”

Shettima also paid glowing tributes to the military, police, DSS, the para-military, Civilian JTF and journalists working in Borno State, describing them as courageous men and women who defied intense fears and threats to help address the challenges posed by the Boko Haram.

He noted: “Around 2013, there were times I had to personally relocate some of the journalists from dangerous locations in Maiduguri to safe locations. I was very particular about the Christians amongst them. Even within the Christians, I was more particular about those who neither understood nor spoke our local languages in Maiduguri.

“These journalists were exposed to possible attacks; they were being regarded as security men or some sort of spies given the fact that at that time, we had Boko Haram fighters living in communities as against what it is today.”