On press releases and the war on Boko Haram

The Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole fighting Boko Haram in the North East has taken on itself to issue press releases weekly on the war going on in the region—a new normal that so far, no one has come out to condemn and almost all media outlets appear to have been satisfied with.

This has almost entirely made the reportage on Boko Haram one-sided, which explains why till date, the unsuspecting public is in the dark as to who or even, what their enemy is up to. Besides the weekly releases, the media is not given the enabling environment to carry out independent investigation and coverage.

It is an affront with lasting savoury that our security outfits prefer to provide all and more luxuries to foreign media and journalists to cover a war that is taking place right under our nose. The consequences of these is that we have foreign journalists who are authorities and have better knowledge of what is going on within our shores. At the end of the day, the public finds confirmation for whatever we report in CNN, BBC World or Aljazeera!

There is nothing wrong with the military issuing press releases weekly—the problem is the entrapment this actually means. This meant that the military has all the luxury to report whatever it wants having tactically stripped the media of its fibre to corroborate or where necessary, belie any given report base on verifiable facts.

The publication of these releases on our pages as a platform to circulate the military’s information is not an issue, but this should not and must not replace the independent and corroborative role of our responsibilities.

Perhaps without breaking this entrapment, the instances of a shekau resurfacing continuously after the military confirms his death cannot end. For the public, as well as the military and all other interested parties to understand the war fully, the independent managers of information must be allowed to carry out their job without restrictions, tactical or otherwise.

As things stand, we cannot fully understand the real strength our enemies to avoid some of the silly mistakes that lands us in series of troubles, including deaths.

We will, as things go today, hardly ever know bomb factories of Boko Haram, its supply chain, its recruitment methods and what have you.

When a reporter at the office went to a scene of an explosion that occurred in November, at Muna, he took a photo of the car in which the bomb went off. When it was brought to the office for publication, we noticed that on the car, a taxi, the NURTW identification number as well its plate number were still readable.

The reporter was asked to follow up and find out from both bodies who had the car so that we can draw some conclusions that may eventually lead us to important discoveries. What this led to or transpired is our business, but the reporter told us that it was the duty of the military and police to do that—which is true but while it does so for security purposes, it is equally the duty of the media to gather accurate information that are of public importance. From the security, the information we had about the explosion was specifically on the bomb that went off—who and how was not mentioned.

If this is the best we get from the releases, NURTW may never know if its members are Boko Haram members, residents of Muna may never know if their neighbours are suicide bombers killing them in scores and the public may never know if Muna Garage was since converted into a Boko Haram bomb factory!


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