Journalists in Nigeria should be taken into confidence by those in authority if they are to work as partners in progress.
This is the view of Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State.
He stressed that the image problem suffered by successive leadership of the country was because media practitioners are not taken into confidence by those in authority due to the erroneous believe that journalists lack capacity to unearth government secrets.
He spoke in a remark after presentation of a paper by former Military Spokesman, Chris Olukolade, a major general, in Maiduguri. Olukolade’s paper was entitled: “An Appraisal of Press Coverage of Military Counter Insurgency Operations in Borno State.”
Shettima said instances where journalists break stories that work against efforts of security agencies in Nigeria are largely because those in control of sensitive information do not take the journalists into confidence.
Shettima also pointed out that state officials prefer to give out less information believing that the journalists lack the capacity to get the facts.
The governor, speaking at the workshop jointly organized by the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army and the Borno State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, in Maiduguri, said in developed countries the media is often taken into confidence and told the truth about security situations with the understanding that the media is patriotic and would not undermine security of the state.
He said: “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 fronts 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 battle fields only days after such visits. The International media completely shielded Prince Harry when he was fighting as a soldier and member of the British troops in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2008. He was only reported 10 weeks into his deployment after leaving dangerous point 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.”
Shettima said his findings have shown that the International media do not give instant or live reports concerning the visits of Presidents and world leaders to any dangerous places because the international media houses are taken into confidence by their media ,managers.
He said however, that in the case of Nigeria, “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.”
Shettima said: “The worst assumption any newsmaker can ever have is to assume that any journalist lacks the capacity to find out what is being kept away from the journalist.”
In his paper, Olukolade said: “Terrorism remains an attractive boon for media coverage. It is this terrorists need for publicity and the media need for greater audience and profits that sustains the dangerous symbiosis between the two. The evil symbiosis is however not inevitable.”
He added that: “This could only be achieved if the media could deliberately opt to constitute a force for good by consciously tilting the equation on the side of the people by starving the terrorist of the oxygen of publicity on which it depends.”
During his paper presentation, “The Role of the Media in Promoting Peace in a Conflict Environment,” at the workshop, the President of the NUJ, AbdulWaheed Odusile said: “Journalist must be respected, recognized, protected and adequately remunerated if we are serious about sustenance of this democracy.”
He added that: “Journalist should also be guaranteed access to information in the course of performing their duties, however, they should also use such information responsibly to ensure peace, promote growth, development and national unity.”