Media, Gender issues take centre stage as experts x-ray asymmetric security challenges

Development Specs Academy boss, Prof Okey Ikechukwu, mni, has stressed the need to always factor the media into military plans to win the hearts and minds of the people .

His position was a key point at the RoundTable on Asymmetric security challenges held in Abuja recently.

His position on the centrality of the media was shared by Waziri Adio, founder of Agora Policy, who spoke on the need for synergy between the media and the military.

He, among others, identified issues such as the “need for an engagement plan; a strategy: what do you need? From whom? When and how?”

“The need to understand the layout of the (media) land: ecosystem and its configuration

“The need to understand them: who are they? How are they wired? And how do they make decisions?

“The need to broaden the field of engagement: going beyond correspondents to decision-makers: publishers/owners, editors, columnists, anchors…

“The need to consistently nurture the relationship: Noah’s analogy. Preparation. Briefings. Consultations.

“The need to be proactive in shaping narrative: The Banex example.

“The need to know the limits: they can’t always do your bidding (most that you can get sometimes is to reflect your own side or downplay)”

Jibrin Ndace, DG VON specifically canvassed the incorporation of media plan and further foreign interventions by Nigeria.

Again, communication, media as well as gender issues formed focal point in day two of the event held at the Army Resource Centre in partnership with Development Specs Academy.

Those who spoke on communication Media and gender include Brigadier General Sani K.Usman, mni, former spokesperson of Nigerian Army, Malam Ali M. Ali, Managing Director, News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, Professor Biodun Adeniyi of Baze University while Margaret Agbo of Development Specs Academy addressed the question of gender sensitive communication.

Brig Gen Usman, the former Army Spokesperson noted that, ”The impact of non-violent communication, NVC, on national security in Nigeria is profound.”

He added, “By fostering a culture of dialogue and understanding, NVC contributes to: Stability: Improved army-civilian relations lead to greater stability within communities, reducing the likelihood of insurgencies and civil unrest.

“Collaboration: Enhanced communication and trust enable more effective collaboration between the military and civilian populations in addressing security challenges.

“Human Rights Protection: NVC encourages the military to engage with civilians in ways that respect human rights and dignity, reducing incidences of abuse and violence.”

Ali M. Ali said: “If what we have endured the often negative and sometimes tragic outcomes of infodemics, misinformation and fake news, how can communication specialists, some of whom are gathered here, sustainably mitigate the damage wrought by adversarial report as well as manage information in a way that will promote the public good?

What to do, he said included: “First, we must uphold truthfulness and accuracy in combating infodemics, misinformation and fake news if we are to build trust with the public.

“The authenticity of a message reinforces that copy or communication. When people perceive the message to be authentic, they tend to believe it the more and show understanding. Genuineness or sincerity is critical in winning the people over.

“For example, through sustained information outflows by certain institutions (Army, Police, first emergency responders, Lagos government etc,) the Lekki Gate false narratives during the #EndSARS protest was debunked as a ” massacre without bodies!”

“We must also be timely in countering misinformation.
This entails striking a balance between speedily responding and the volume of information available. A burning issue should not be allowed to fester before we react although there are times when silence is said to be golden until an auspicious time when a valid response would be desirable.

“Because misinformation and fake news are crafted to be sensational, we must also craft our responses in an interesting manner that would attract attention given the crowded media space and the competition for attention.

“We must also work with friendly media influencers who are credible and have the capacity to push out copies which grab media attention.

“Regular communication through constant engagements is critical, especially for institutions of state. They must always talk to the people and not the people begging them to react to issues as they break. In effect, we must be proactive rather than reactive in communication.

“Institutions of state in particular must promote digital literacy among their communications professionals, especially now that the media landscape is constantly in a state of flux.”

Prof Adeniyi said issues to consider in reporting security related matter included: “Public Interest: Assess whether the story serves the public interest.

“Harm Minimisation: Weigh the potential harm to individuals and communities against the public’s need to know.

“Informed Consent: Seek consent from individuals involved, particularly when dealing with vulnerable populations.”

● Gender Sensitive Communication

Margaret Agbo who spoke on gender-sensitive communication asserted that: ”Our use of gender-biased language is sometimes designed to deliberately give offence, but not always. Whether intended to give offence or not, gender-biased use of language tends towards social exclusion and not inclusion.

“Gender-inclusive communication on the other hand, reduces discrimination and makes everyone feel that he or she is part of a team or group of equal parts. It reenforces group cohesion, collaboration, team work and reduces conflict. It also strengthens self confidence among the individual and promotes forward looking social change.

“In order to improve gender sensitive communication, we must avoid gender stereotypes, exclusionary terms, unequal forms of address, and gender inequity through titles and labels.”

She concluded by outlining what she termed steps toward gender sensitive communication thus: “Training of communication personnel to raise awareness about gender biases and stereotypes.

” Develop and explain gender neutral expressions that could be used to substitute gender biased notions and culturally induced gender stereotypes.

“Entrenched commitment to equity through non-discriminatory practices as official policy.

“Avoid the use of negative gender-specific terms as a matter of course.”


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