The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has disclosed that Federal Government has trained competent information officers tasked with skills to indentify and tackle the prevalent cases of “fake news” on social and traditional media.
Mohammed disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the opening of the two-dat workshop organised by the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) in collaboration with the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) for the Ministries Departmeny and Agencies (MDAs) Strategic Communication Liaison Officers and some selected journalists. The capacity-building workshop is tagged: ‘Mainstream strategic communication across Government for National Security’.
Undeniably, he said, technological advances have redefined the media landscape and the way Information Officers communicate government activities to the public.
He said: “As a result, the Ministry is leveraging on various Social Media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter and Instagram, just to mention a few, to reach our audiences, especially the youths. These Social Media platforms also provide unique opportunity for the Ministry to aggregate and gauge public opinions and perceptions of government. Also, we developed short videos on government activities and share on our You-Tube channels which are operated by our Information Officers.
“It is relevant to mention that on 15 December 2016, we launched a Federal Government Information APP as part of strategic communications activities to bridge communication gap and bring our people a click away from Government. The Resident Information Officers (RIOs) across MDAs generate content which are analysed and uploaded unto the Information APP on a daily basis.”
“Faced with the prevalence of fake news we took action by preparing Information Officers with the skills to identify and counter such fake news through engagement and counter narrative,” he added.
Mohammed stressed that “Information Officers are assigned to monitor both online and offline news media to identify such fake news and develop timely and credible counter narratives to respond to such fake news”.
According to the minister, the role of Information Officers in strengthening Government Communication is relevant to achieving national strategic objectives.
He noted that by the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the Ministry is to manage the image, reputation and promote the culture of the people and Government of Nigeria through a dynamic public information system that facilitate access by the citizens and the global community to credible and timely information about our Nation.
Traditionally, he said Information Officers are at the center of our effort to discharge this mandate.
“Therefore, the role of Information Officers is to disseminate accurate and timely information about government policies, programmes and activities. This role ensures that our national image and message is communicated to audiences at home and abroad,” he said.
In the same vein, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Mungono (rtd), noted that the “main objective has been to synchronise Government communication, address our audiences, craft the right messages that will support our strategic narratives and ultimately, communicate our values in words and deeds while deconstructing the negative message of individuals and groups who seek to divide us and challenge our one, indivisible, democratic and progressive nation”.
Monguno who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Office, Amb. Aminu Nabegu, also stressed that “the nexus between strategic communication and national security is deeply rooted”.
He emphasised that at the heart of every threat, including terrorism, is a dangerous communication objective, which the enemy tries to put across.
Monguno noted that the terrorist groups from Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS use communication to propagate and sustain their violent ideology.
These groups, he said, are adept at the use of fear appeals and terrorist acts to communicate and always be on the news, unfortunately because the news media have a responsibility to report, our news channels are replete with the negative news of terror and conflicts.
“Government therefore struggles daily on how best to communicate effectively in order to counter these narratives. It is therefore the business of you all to bring up strategic communication to counter these messages, which is why mainstreaming it has become a priority. All relevant MDAs must therefore take urgent steps to build and sustain this effort,” he directed.
He expressed belief that these Desks will give teeth to the work of strategic communication liaison officers, who in the past few months have received training during the monthly SC/IPC Meetings hosted by the Counter Terrorism Centre in my Office.
Monguno noted that “crucial to the setting up of the desks is the development of internal Communication plans and the ability to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of their implementation.
In the same vein, the Conflic Adviser of DFID, Dr. Joseph Ochogwu, expresed the United Kingdom (UK) commitment to support Nigeria in ending terrorist threats across the country.
Ochogwu said that the programme by NSRP is part of UK’s strategic engagement for peace and security of Nigeria.
To this end, he said the British government committed about £38 million to the five-year NSRP project ending this year.