The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen LEO Irabor, has charged Journalists reporting on insecurity and conflict in the country to exhibit patriotism as such would help set aside professional differences and peculiarities that constitute barrier to their cooperation.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a three-day conference on “Enhancing Journalist-Military Cooperation in Checking Insecurity”, he said being patriotic entails that Journalists would not remain unconcerned in the present war against Insurgency, pointing out that all hands must be on deck to defeat the enemies of the Nigerian state.
The CDS who was represented by the Chief of Defence Civil-Military Cooperation, Rear Admiral A.O. Ayobanjo, urged the Conferees to utilize the conference to find out ways Journalists and the military could cooperate and the dos and don’ts of such cooperation.
This, he said if unraveled would strengthen the existing relationship between Journalists and the military.
The CDS said it is in recognition of this that the Defence Headquarters agree to collaborate with Zakclair Investment Limited to bring the conference to fruition.
“It is my pleasure to deliver the opening speech on this occasion of the 3-day conference on Enhancing Journalists-Military Cooperation in Checking Insecurity (in Nigeria)”.
From time immemorial, journalists as watch dog of the society and purveyors of news have steadfastly executed the duties of informing, educating and enlightening the heterogenous public on daily occurrences and activities happening around them and beyond. In like manner, Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended entrusted the Armed Forces of Nigeria with the onerous responsibility of defending the country from external aggression, maintaining the territorial integrity of Nigeria as well as securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air. Invariably, it could be deduced that journalists work on the minds and soul of the populace. They use their medium and platforms to condition the minds of people as well as set agenda to enable people make informed decisions on day-to-day issues. The military on the other hand, is responsible of ensuring that the physical space is not threatened or violated by any injurious force or actions perpetuated by enemies of the state and criminals, which could lead to disruption of peace and orderliness in the society”.
” Accordingly, journalists and members of the armed forces are partners in progress. They need each other to actualize the mandates of their professional callings. For instance, notwithstanding military monopoly in the use of the weapons of violence, it cannot win the war in the hearts and minds of the people by kinetic means. On the other hand, despite journalists’ ability to use the power of the pen and media to articulate and disseminate opinions and issues, they need a safe space and conducive environment facilitated by the military and other security agencies for human activities to thrive. This marriage of necessity between the military and journalists has come to stay because there cannot be any form of development in the absence of enduring peace and tranquility. That said, the marriage is not altogether without conflict”.
“Given the foregoing, I wish to state that this 3 days conference designed to enhance military-journalists cooperation in tackling insecurity is apt and timely in view of the myriads of contemporary security challenges bedeviling the country vis a vis the various military operations being conducted to stem the tide of terrorism and criminalities in various parts of the country. It is also of profound importance for us to envisage what we expect to gain at the end of this conference. This can be attained if we provide answers to the following questions: How can we enhance journalists and military cooperation? What are the dos and don’ts that must be observed to strengthen the existing cooperation?
“Putting the country first in all we do will contribute greatly in enhancing journalists and military cooperation. Patriotism helps us to set aside professional differences and peculiarities to project our country favourably in the eyes of both national and global communities. Being patriotic entails that we will not remain unconcerned in contributing our quota towards addressing and proffering solutions to security problems in the country. Patriotism is also key in advancing the whole-of- the-society approach, which harps on the need for all hands to be on deck to defeat the enemies of the state. As we all know, security is everyones business. It is hoped that the 3 days conference would be highly engaging”.
“It is in realizing the cardinal roles both journalists and the Armed Forces play in nation building that the Defence Headquarters agreed to collaborate with Zakclair Investment Limited to bring this 3 days conference to fruition. I therefore seize this special opportunity to humbly welcome the Chairman of the event, erudite presenters, editors, bureau chiefs, members of the press”, he stated.
Also speaking, the President of Nigeria Union of Journalists(NUJ), Comrade Christopher Isiguzo, said the media are important in handling cases of insecurity as they help mitigate situations that threaten peace and stability in society.
He, therefore, urged journalists to adopt peace journalism as such approach would go a long way to address the present challenge.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief Executive Officer, Zakclair Investment Limited, Alhaji Adebayo Adelabu Abdulrazak, expressed gratitude to the CDS, guests, lead speakers and conferees for making out time from their busy schedule to honour the occasion.
He said the need for the conference became necessary based on observable frictions between Journalists and the military, which had existed over the years; not only the military but also other security agencies.
He called on all stakeholders to brainstorm on these issues and find grounds for cooperation between the military and Journalists.
He also called on other stakeholders to encourage future robust discussions on this issue and adopt professional ethics that will support the present interface.
In his paper entitled, “Enhancing Military-Journalist Cooperation In Checking Insecurity”, Brig-Gen Sani Kukasheka Usman (rtd), said that friction between Journalists and the military were centred on news reports from Journalists that endanger the lives of military personnel during operations and the publication of fake and unverified Information.
He recommended that there should be sustained training programme for defence correspondents and continued engagement of the military with media executives.
Also in his own paper entitled, “Strategic Communication In Curbing Insurgency/Terrorism: The Journalist- Military Cooperation Perspective”, Prof. Walter Ihejirika, Dean, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, University of Port Harcourt, stated that a gap exist between Journalists and the military in their relationship and that strategic communication was required to bridge the gap.
He condemned the attitude of the military treating Journalists as lapdog instead of the watchdog.
He, therefore, recommended that Journalists should cover Insurgency bearing in mind national interest and security.
He urged the military to ensure that Journalists are embedded in military operations so as to enable them have I-witness account, which is more reliable.
The highpoint of the occasion was the presentation of award of excellence to selected journalists and Media organizations.
The recipients include; Blessing Tunoh, Chiemelie Ezeobi of ThisDay Newspaper and Ismail Musa of Nigeria Television Authority(NTA).
Others are; Channels Television, Nigeria Television Authority(NTA) and Punch Newspaper.