The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, has clarified why its personnel invaded the offices of Daily Trust Newspapers in Maiduguri, Abuja and Lagos saying it was in the interest of national security.
Personnel of the Nigerian Army had on January 6, 2019, invaded the offices of the newspaper, ransacked the newsrooms and carted away computers, arrested journalists and temporarily shut down the offices.
The Army claimed that the story as published by the newspaper “divulged classified information, thus undermining national security.”
Buratai gave the clarification at the on-going Nigerian Army Media Conference held in collaboration with the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other professional media bodies in Abuja,Thursday, January 24, 2019.
The theme of the conference is “Enhancing Media-Military Relationship for Effective Fight Against Terrorism and Insurgency in Nigeria.”
Explaining the rationale behind the invasion, Buratai said the action, which drew the attention of people from local and international communities, was done in the best interest of the nation to safeguard national cohesion.
He explained that although it may be difficult to remove confrontation and intimidation from the operation, it was also necessary to understand the conditions under which the action was taken in order to be fair in judgment.
According to him, the country is facing an emergency and in a state of war with the terrorists and so, reporting military plans, strategies, location of troops and equipment to be launched against the terrorists at a time of severe conflict was not in the country’s best interest.
Continuing, Buratai added that in the wake of the publication by Daily Trust, the military had to act urgently alongside other security agencies, emphasizing that it was the best action at the time and was intended to draw attention to the fact that an action that endangered national security and lives of troops had been carried out by virtue of that publication and also to create awareness on the dangers of such reportage.
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“National security takes precedence over every other consideration in matters like this,” the Army Chief added.
While cautioning the media against the temptation to report sensational news from the terrorists, Buratai said the psychological warfare being waged by the terrorists was taking a toll on troops’ morale as they prosecute the war on the battle field.
“The propaganda that the terrorists are better trained and equipped than the military is so much that sometimes, even I am tempted to believe.
“But how can they be better trained and equipped than us,” he queried.
Earlier in a keynote address, former Director-general of NTA, Prof. Tonnie Iredia, emphasised the need for information sharing with the media, as the media would not deliberately misrepresent the facts with information at its disposal.
He warned against cowing the media, as such attempts would breed poor reportage.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, pointed out that terrorists thrive on publicity and so should not be given the wings to fly by the media, by reporting them in a manner that appears celebratory.
The Minister who was represented by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Grace Gekpe, pointed out that support for the military should not be about the government in power, but an all-time affair, in the interest of the country. “Even if you don’t like the government in power, please don’t extend the hatred to the military.”
He emphasised the need for fact-checking, saying “the urge to be the first to break the news will break the country.”