Broadcast Media and National security
By Martins Oloja
…Governments rely on a range of measures, including political, economic and military power, as well as diplomacy to safeguard the security of a nation – state. They may also act to build the conditions of security regionally and internationally by reducing transnational causes of insecurity, such as climate change, economic inequality, political exclusion and nuclear proliferation.
The concept of national security, therefore, remains ambiguous, having evolved from simpler definitions, which emphasised freedom from military threat and from political coercion. Among the many definitions proposed to date are the following, which show how the concept has evolved to encompass non-military concerns:
“A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate ínterests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war.” (Walter Lippmann, 1943)
”The distinctive meaning of national security means freedom from foreign dictation.” (Harold Lasswell, 1950)
”National security objectively means the absence of threats to acquired values and subjectively, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked.” (Arnold Wolfers, 1960)
”National security then is the ability to preserve the nation’s physical integrity and territory; to maintain its economic relations with the rest of the world on reasonable terms; to preserve its nature, institution, and governance from disruption from outside; and to control its borders. (Harold Brown, U.S. Secretary of Defence, 1977–1981)
”National security… is best described as a capacity to control those domestic and foreign conditions that the public opinion of a given community believes necessary to enjoy its own self-determination or autonomy, prosperity, and wellbeing.” (Charles Maier, 1990)
”National security is an appropriate and aggressive blend of political resilience and maturity, human resources, economic structure and capacity, technological competence, industrial base and availability of natural resources and finally the military might.” (National Defence College of India, 1996)
”(National security is the measurable state of the capability of a nation to overcome the multi-dimensional threats to the apparent well-being of its people and its survival as a nation-state at any given time, by balancing all instruments of state policy through governance… and is extendable to global security by variables external to it.” (Prabhakaran Paleri, 2008)
”(National and international security) may be understood as shared freedom from fear and want, and the freedom to live in dignity. It implies social and ecological health rather than the absence of risk… (and is) a common right.” (Ammerdown Group, 2016)
National security in global context
National security is the safekeeping of the nation as a whole. Its highest order of business is the protection of the nation and its people from attack and other external dangers by maintaining armed forces and guarding state secrets.
For instance, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the defence of the homeland from terrorist and other attacks, broadly understood as homeland security, has risen as a major national security concern in the United States.
Because national security entails both national defence and the protection of a series of geopolitical, economic, and other interests, it affects not only defence policy, but foreign and other policies as well. Foreign and defence policies should be seen as mutually reinforcing, not as zero-sum trade-offs in budgetary fights. While hard choices will indeed have to be made in national security spending, they should be decided by realities, not by fatuous comparisons or incoherent and tendentious concepts.
The next question to address is how to attain national security. For decades, the United States, for instance, has tried to answer this question with the official National Security Strategy (NSS). Unfortunately, these official documents have a bad reputation. They are often seen more as public relations exercises than as reliable guides for strategic planning.
Crafting a full NSS is beyond the scope of this discussion, but as a bare outline, our country should have goals that are clear, achievable, and mutually reinforcing. The following suggestions for National Security Strategy goals are listed in descending order of importance:
• Preserve the safety of the Nigerian homeland and protect the integrity of the nation’s domestic institutions and systems (such as schools) vital to that purpose. This goal requires strong Active, Guard, and Reserve forces as well as effective intelligence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, cyber-security, and immigration policies to protect the homeland and secure Nigeria’s borders.
• Exert Nigeria’s influence as much as possible overseas, especially in West Coast through the entire spectrum of instruments of power, including diplomacy, foreign aid, selective intelligence sharing, public diplomacy, and human rights and humanitarian programmes. This requires integrating Nigeria’s diplomacy and foreign aid and humanitarian programmes more closely to achieve the purposes of the national strategy.
The Way Forward
Any discussion of broadcast journalism in the context of national security must be rooted in a clear understanding of the concepts it involves. The following are the four most important takeaways from this analysis of journalism and national security:
The Commander-in-Chief and the military authorities need to understand the times like the Children of Issachar the ancient book tells us, who understood the times and knew what Israel ought to do. There is ample evidence from the foregoing that the authorities here do not quite understand what journalism is all about. They see journalists as evil professionals who often seek to bring down their government and most times, they criminalise journalism as a profession that enemies of government equip to undermine their personal interest they report to the undiscerning as threat to national security. They hardly recognise the role of journalists within the context of the constitution.
It is clear from this context that our leaders here do not even have clear-cut national security strategy (NSS). Even military strategy to deal with terrorism they call banditry, they do not share with media executives, let alone defence journalists. They are so secretive. They don’t train defence journalists with a view to embedding them to report military operations in war theatres that they have effectively put in place since 2009 in the North East. Ms Christine Amanpour became significant journalist from this beat of embedment in military operations in Europe. It is curious that in a democratic regime, there are 34 military operations out of our 36 states. How do we report that without incurring the wrath of the military authorities that raided an Abuja-based newspaper for reporting a well-known operation a few years ago?
The authorities need to make capacity and flexibility the watchwords of strategic and military planning so as to give the President as Commander in Chief and his military leaders as many options as possible to deal with any contingency that may arise to threaten the nation. They also need to understand that the more capacity and credibility Nigerian forces have, the less likely it is that they will be challenged and the more able they will be to respond effectively to surprises when they occur, as they inevitably will.
The regulator, NBC needs to face and check reality that the 21st century that the big data people, the giants have disrupted is remarkably different from the days when a public officer could just issue guidelines on how broadcast journalists could cover terrorism. If conventional journalists fail to report killings by terrorists, citizen journalists will. Who then loses in the market? This is not a time in our world, you can wake up to protect the sagging image of a ruling party and you flaunt national security threat as a weapon to supress information flow that is of public interest.
Note that any media organs that continue to ignore public interest will face sudden death. Reason: as Jill Abramson, former Editor of the New York Times observes through a title of his book, journalists are “merchants of truth… inside the news revolution” No matter how state actors find such truths inconvenient, the merchants will continue to speak such truths to power through revelations of what they try most times to hide. Revelations of truths about misrule, lack of capacity to organise and enforce public service rules and regulations to curtail corruption in the public sector cannot threaten national security. A recent public function report on a private broadcaster revealed that the Minister of Police Affairs, the Inspector General of Police, the Chairman of the New Police Trust Fund and the Secretary of the Police Trust Fund that disbursed N7 billion worth of police equipment that day all hail from the North. If that news item was contextually reported that the president who appointed all the officers who control the operations of the police force and funds has failed to honour his word to us on May 29, 2015 that, “I belong to nobody”, whose action would be reported as threatening national security: the reporter ‘s or the president’s?
THE strong grip of the ruling party on the public broadcasters, namely the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, (FRCN), the NTA, and VON encourages the authorities to run away with a misconception that other news media organisations that do not report like them are a threat to national security. There should be an amendment bill to make the public broadcasters (FRCN, NTA, VON) to be run as public broadcasters indeed such as the BBC, SABC, South Africa, VoA, etc. The Nigerian situation has been so bad that the current Director General of the VON is allowed to attend APC meetings and curiously, he issues partisan statements against opposition elements in the country. This is indecent and unacceptable.
In the main, while I would like to enjoin broadcasters too to understand the need for training, learning, unlearning and relearning the discipline of broadcasting in the 21st century. The military and security institutions in the country should note that they too need to realise that their failure to provide security and welfare to the people too threatens national security and the merchants of truths will always report that. When that is done, there should be no allegation that journalists are felons who always threaten national security.
• Being concluding part of the talking points for MARTINS OLOJA, Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, at the Foundation for Ibadan Television Anniversary Celebration (FITAC) 2021 Seminar on National Security at the Press Centre, on Thursday September 2, 2021. First Part published here on Sunday, September 19, 2021.