Security agencies have called on Nigerian media to be cautious in their reports as they are capable of negatively affecting the nation’s security.
The call came in the midst of the debate over the right to freedom of expression and the government’s efforts to ensure that the digital space and the mass media generally do not become a playground for terrorism and destabilisation.
Speaking with media owners and practitioners at a meeting in Abuja, the security agencies while giving assurance of adequate security, said the media should “walk the fine balance between openness on one hand and national security on the other.”
Speaking at the interactive session which was held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Lawal Daura; the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, gave assurance that the security situation in the country was within the control of the government.
They added that the security situation could be helped where the media reduced sensation from their daily coverage.
“Our state of national security is not as bad as it is painted by the media,” the security chiefs said.
In seeking the support from the media towards the achievement of security for everyone, the heads of the agencies emphasised that sharing and coordination among security agencies and the media were essential to counter the ever-changing threats faced by the nation.
The security chieftains expressed particular worry that there were groups in the country with evil designs to disrupt the processes leading to the 2019 general elections in the hope of creating a stalemate.
They warned the media against the activities of some unregistered groups that had allegedly been active in trying to undermine critical institutions such as the law-enforcement agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The security heads also called for closer cooperation from the media to prevent terrorists and radical ideologies directed from abroad from undermining the ongoing efforts to restore security in parts of the country facing the challenges of terrorism, economic sabotage, criminality, farmers-herdsmen clashes and the spread of illegal weapons.
In a special submission by the NIA, its Director-General recalled unsavoury developments of the last one year, which had put the agency in a negative limelight, but said that such developments were not peculiar to the agency.
“Similar institutions across the world have passed through this phase. What is, however, important is for the right lessons to be learnt from these developments.
“I see these challenges as impetus to reposition the agency for effective service delivery in realisation of its core mandate, as a critical component of our national security architecture,” he said.
Ambassador Abubakar appealed for media support to enable the agency to reform and remain focused on tackling the challenges of international nature facing the nation which included terrorism and violent extremism manifested in activities of Boko Haram (BH), ISIS, AQIM, Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda, Ansaru, among others.
He said the nation also faced threats from the human trafficking and illegal migration, smuggling, slavery, forced labour, prostitutions, drugs trafficking, activities of drug cartels and their networks, as well as trafficking in small arms and light weapons (SALW).
According to the DG, “Financial Crimes, identification of financial resources and properties suspected to be obtained by corrupt means belonging to Nigerians especially Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs); Herdsmen and Farmers clashes, cattle rustling etc; Piracy and Militancy, particularly in the Niger Delta: Oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism; and Cyber Crimes/ Cyber security: activities of online fraudsters, hacking etc. will henceforth receive priority attention.”
The intelligence and security chieftains also expressed the view that the Nigerian media had a role in securing Nigeria’s national interest.
The expected role of the press, they said, was in tandem with global best practices, particularly on issues that had bearing on national security.
They, therefore, invited the media “as partners to continue to be security conscious and exercise restraint in disseminating information that could expose the services to ridicule or harm our National Security,” stressing that, “Prior consultation with appropriate members of the Intelligence Community is the best way to go.”