The Nigerian Editor And National Security

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Being a Keynote Address delivered at the 8th All Nigerian
Editors Conference (ANEC, Uyo 2012) by the National Security Adviser to the
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, M. S. Dasuki, at the Akwa Ibom
State Banquate Hall, Uyo, on Thursday, September 13, 2012.

It is my pleasure to represent the National Security Adviser
(NSA), Mohammed Sambo Dasuki, and to be in the midst of such distinguished
Editors on the special occasion of the 8th All Nigerian Editors Conference. The
NSA is unable to attend  this important
conference due to prior commitments. He asked me not only to express his
regrets, but also to convey his appreciation for extending an invitation to him
to be your keynote speaker.

It is the view of the NSA that the protection of our country
from internal and external threats is not the work of security agencies alone,
but that these are national problems that require the active support of the
public. Obviously, as the primary source of information and communication in
most free and democratic societies, the media (or press) is an important
partner in the business of enhancing National Security. Probably more than any
other profession, you shape public opinion and perception, thereby influencing
such things as public orientation, attitude, patriotism, public awareness,
national spirit and the nation’s ability to mobilize. This role is particularly
important given the state of affairs in our nation today.

Clearly, the theme of this conference, which “the Nigerian
Editor and National Security” is very apt, considering the noble role of our
editors and their publications in enhancing national security. You are well
aware of Nigeria’s history and struggles and the effort that were expended to
earn our democracy. The press was an important part of that struggle. It acted
as a voice of the conscience and aspirations of the people. The media can
remain at the forefront of positive change and nation building. That is the
theme of the keynote today.

Let me now move on to the substance of this keynote. I will
start by defining national security and the responsibilities of the security
community. Then I will explore what an editor does within a publishing firm,
newspaper, magazine or other publication in order to highlight how critical
your profession is in the business of national security. I will then provide
some insights on how editors can/should contribute more meaningfully to
resolving the challenges we face.

In Nigeria, our working definition of National Security is
the maintenance of the survival and prosperity of the State and its
institutions through the use of economic, military, political and other powers.
For a nation to be secure, it has to possess economic personal security, etc. A
nation’s security architecture is designed to protect its people, its
communities, its institutions, its reputation, its territorial integrity, etc.
In the case of Nigeria, in reaction to the changing needs of society, and as
has become the norm internationally, our security infrastructure has grown
beyond traditional elements such as the Police, Armed Forces, Customs and
Immigration activities to include such government entities and activities as
NAFDAC, our food storage program, the protection of our pipelines and oil
installations, anti-fraud and anti-counterfeit activities, our work against
human trafficking, maritime security, counter-terrorism, aviation security, the
work of NAFDAC, etc. By the way, everything that security agents do is mandated
by our constitution, which tasks various entities with the responsibilities for
elements of national security. So, our national security architecture is the
outcome of our laws and the wisdom of our lawmakers.

On the other hand, simply said, by definition, the editor
has managerial and oversight responsibility for a publication. His/her policies
and strategies shape the tone and direction of the publication. Because free
society values freedom of expression, the editor is responsible for preserving
the culture of free press and the ideals of the media community. But the editor
is also responsible for maintaining accuracy, un-biasedness and fairness in the
editorial process in order to maintain the integrity of his/her publication and
profession. A newspaper, magazine or other publication is largely a reflection
of its editor. You cannot separate a publication from its editor or editorial
board, as the case may be. Especially in an emerging nations and budding
democracy such as Nigeria, the role of the editor and the media in information
dissemination is important. As publishers, you have a corporate social
responsibility to contribute to nation building.

The editor obviously then is a partner in ensuring that the
media does its work well. Let me go back in history as a way of further
expanding on this concept. Prior to our becoming an independent republic or
federation, the press, through progressive and patriotic messaging that often
antagonized colonialists, contributed to building the foundation for
post-colonial self-rule. During the military era, the press was also active in
promoting the idea that our citizens will be able to select their own leaders
again. The active press in Nigeria is attributable to this history. We might
have even picked up some of the press anti-government stance from there. When
independence was our major national problem, the media helped us get there.
When democracy was our nation’s most important challenge, our press helped us
to achieve it. Now, we have a young 13 year old democracy. The major challenges
facing our country are now security and economic development. Clearly, the
press has an important and positive role to play as we deal with these current
problems.

But first, one has to ask the question “how does the role of
the press change from a pre-democratic regime to a period when we must build
democratic institutions, secure our nation and grow our economy. Simply put,
there is no doubt in my mind that the press can be a very important tool as we
as a nation pursue new prosperity. I put it to you that there is a paradigm
shift in national purpose. The nation has set clear goals in the areas of the
economy and security. So it is time to rethink the role of our media and
explore how, as instruments of information and education, you can again be at
the forefront of shaping our future positively. In fact, it is in this regard
that the media is often referred to as the fourth estate of the realm,
along-side the executive branch, legislative branch and judicial branch.

Permit me to make a distinction between the masses and
terrorists who take issue with our national mission, values, cohesion and
ideals. In a real democracy, the citizens are the clients, of even the press,
and the editor too. In many cases, they must partner with others to ensure that
the citizenry is well informed and served. In today’s society, our citizens
need to be adequately informed about the dangers of terrorism. They need to be
informed about how to protect themselves and their communities from terrorist.
They need to learn positive steps to take to minimize the potential of being
victims of armed robbery and kidnapping. They need to be educated about how to
identify and help security forces defeat dangerous elements. They need to build
resistance to extremist thinking and indoctrination by extremists. They need to
be able to show the enemies of the state that the nation, including the press,
have no appreciation for terrorism, bunkering, kidnapping, piracy, robbery and
other menaces and obstacles to our nation’s prosperity. Our newspaper headlines
have to reflect this partnership. There should be no doubt in the minds of
enemies of peace and freedom where the press lies. Obviously, the press is a
natural partner of government in public education, awareness building,
information dissemination, and building national cohesion. When we talk about
the nation’s transformation agenda, the media itself has to be at the forefront
of change.

I am frequently concerned about some of the headlines I read
and the tendency of  some of our partners
in the media to select sensational headlines, especially in quoting security
agents or government officials. While I understand that a purpose of the media
is to sell publications, it is also important to note that we must also strike
a balance when it comes to national security. Again, it boils down to corporate
social responsibility. The press should not contribute to the fear level of
society or raise anxiety in ways that interfere with the work of security
agents, even when it sells newspapers. This is where the editor comes in. the
quality of media personnel varies widely. In some cases, just as we in the
security community have realized that human capital development is central to
our success, the press too has to embrace personnel capacity building. Abundant
value added will be generated from the retraining of reporters and the
development of minimum qualifications and standards. That is where the editor
comes in ensuring quality control, providing leadership in managing the
achievement of balance, and ensure that those in the sector that are less
trained or that need clear standards fall within the quality tolerance of the
Nigerian Editor’s community. Security is now about citizen welfare. That is as
much a responsibility of the media as it is the responsibility of public
institutions.

The press cannot be an instrument of damage to our national
reputation. The press should not make our nation worse than it actually is in
the international community. Our common stakeholder, the public, needs the
press to be at the forefront of managing our national image. This is
particularly important in the advent of social media and the internet when all
your newspapers are being read around the world, almost as instantly as you
finish your columns. Bad press about Nigeria affects the ability of our
nation’s level of entrepreneurship and job creation. I believe that the editor
is responsible for managing the role of the media in national affairs. There
are examples from all over the world and in Nigeria too when as a result of
good editors, the press acted responsibly in balancing national interests
against other interests.

In closing, let me express my sincere appreciation to the
Editors Guild for Inviting the NSA to deliver your keynote. Let there be no
doubt that we see you as partners in our work in the area of national security.
I urge you to spent time during this conference to explore ways of
strengthening the contributions of the press to make our nation safe,
especially through public education and information, as well as national
orientation. It is hoped that the conference would proffer useful suggestions
to enhance the good working relationship between the media and the security and
security agents. On this note, on behalf of the National Security Adviser, I
wish you a successful and fruitful conference. Thank you.