US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1687


Identifier: 01ABUJA1687
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1687 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-07-17 12:26:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
1.  Summary.  The Military Public Affairs Workshop organized 
by the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy for the public 
relations officers of the Nigerian armed forces and for 
defense journalists succeeded beyond all expectations. 
Director of the American Forces Information Service Cliff 
Bernath and USAF LtCol Patrick Barnes of EUCOM Public Affairs 
provided five days of training on the full range of public 
affairs activities and issues that relate to defense and the 
U.S. armed forces.  Members of two distrustful Nigerian 
professional communities ) the military and journalists -- 
worked together during class exercises, and each topic on the 
schedule allowed for full exchanges that helped 
constructively communicate their different points of view. 
There were two concrete results of the sessions.  The 
Nigerian PR officers and the journalists, with Bernath as 
facilitator, hammered out framework guidelines for their 
professional relationships.  The workshop's final session 
addressed public affairs planning for Operation Focus Relief 
Phase III, with the participants brainstorming through 
audiences, events, and messages.  The workshop gained the 
Embassy dozens of new contacts in the two professional 
groups, and the relationships and rapport developed during 
the workshop should smooth public affairs planning and 
execution for OFR Phase III, now set to begin in September. 
The public relations officers and the journalists gave this 
first professional training extravagant praise, and they 
ardently requested continued U.S. help to enhance and 
professionalize their role in Nigeria's new civil-military 
relations.  This is a GPRA report.  End Summary. 
2.  Key topics in this cable (see paragraphs below): 
Workshop objectives, 3-4 
Minister of Defense's Remarks, 5-10 
Ambassador Jeter's Remarks, 11-12 
Workshop sessions, 13 
Media-Military Distrust, 14-15 
Proposed Military-Media Guidelines, 16 
Operation Focus Relief Phase III, 17-19 
"Messages" for OFR-III, 20 
Government Performance Results Act, 21 
3.  "Effective Military Public Affairs in a Democracy" was 
the theme of a workshop organized in Abuja by the Public 
Affairs Section of the American Embassy.  Working with the 
Director of Defense Information in Defense Headquarters, 
Colonel G. A. Adewale, the Nigerian attendees included the 
Director and his principal assistants, the senior (civilian) 
information officer on the Minister of Defence's personal 
staff, the public relations chiefs of each of the three 
services, and officers and senior NCO's from a number of 
service commands.  At the request of the DDI, the defense 
journalists accredited to the Ministry of Defense were 
invited as participants, along with public affairs 
representatives of the "paramilitary" forces ) the police 
and the customs service. 
4.  The Office of International Information Affairs lined up 
two extraordinarily qualified resource persons for the 
workshop ) Director of the American Forces Information 
Service (and former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of 
Defense for Public Affairs) Cliff Bernath, and USAF 
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Barnes from the EUCOM public 
affairs office. 
5.  The workshop was formally opened by Minister of Defence 
T.Y.Danjuma and by Ambassador Jeter.  Also present was Vice 
Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, Chief of Defense Staff. 
6.  The theme of the Minister's remarks was the necessity for 
transparency, openness and accountability.  "Public officials 
are stewards who are accountable to the people," he said. 
"The public has a right to know what government and public 
officials are doing, because whatever they are doing is 
supposed to be for the people.  They have a right to ask 
questions because they are stakeholders in the affairs of the 
7.  "The military is a unique national institution with its 
own peculiar norms and practices," the Minister continued. 
Because it is "preoccupied with the security of the nation," 
it tends to be secretive.  This results in "mistrust and 
misunderstanding in civil-military relations."  Also, "the 
misadventure of the military getting involved in politics and 
governance has done serious damage to the image and 
credibility of the armed forces."  Now "we must make 
conscious and sustained efforts to communicate openly with 
the public." 
8.  The Minister told the participants that public relations 
professionals in the Ministry of Defense and the services 
must be "professional in dealing with our public," and must 
create "channels for the exchange of ideas and information." 
9.  In closing, the Minister reflected that "over the years I 
have come to appreciate the role and orientation of the press 
in civil-military relations.  The news media would always 
report an event whether it gets the information from official 
sources or not.  The military wants to defend the nation, but 
the media wants to watch and report the defenders so as to 
make them accountable.  There is often conflict in these 
roles.  We can avoid unnecessary tension and conflicts by 
appreciating the complimentary nature of these roles."  He 
concluded by urging "the military and the media to be 
steadfast and transparent in their relationship for greater 
benefit of our society." 
10.  This strong endorsement of openness and transparency by 
the Minister was greeted by the assembled public relations 
officers and journalists with enthusiasm.  Many told us 
during the workshop that they hoped Danjuma would repeat the 
message for their commanders, who have a strong aversion to 
dealing with the media. 
11.  Ambassador Jeter in his opening remarks noted that the 
armed forces now "serve an elected government, respond to 
legislative oversight, face the media, and are accountable to 
the Nigerian people."  The democratic transition, he said, 
"will make this country greater, more prosperous, and more 
stable in the future.  The Nigerian armed forces will win the 
respect of the Nigerian people as corruption ends, as the 
standards of training and professionalism increase, as 
leadership takes on a democratic spirit, as your bases and 
installations are recognized as 'good neighbors' in the 
community they serve, and as people see soldiers, sailors, 
and airmen engaged in useful tasks.  Internationally, your 
troops are a vital force for peace and stability in Africa. 
Nigerians should know it; Africa should know it; and the 
world should know it." 
12.  The Ambassador continued, however, that "for too many 
journalists, there is a reflexive distrust of the armed 
forces.  For too many of Nigeria's leaders, civilian as well 
as military, their press policy can be summed up as, "we wish 
the media would go away."  The Ambassador cautioned against 
"the military habit that decisions are not to be questioned," 
"misusing 'official secrets' as a reason not to reveal 
shortcomings or embarrassing facts," a "reluctance to admit 
that the armed forces were, during the period of military 
rule, as devastated and hollowed out as other institutions," 
and a reluctance to "face the reality that there was 
wholesale corruption and tolerance of serious human rights 
violations, and marked deviations from the rule of law in the 
past."  "building a bridge of trust between the armed forces 
and the media is one more task for the democratic transition." 
13.  The workshop schedule included sessions on: 
-- Internal Information Programs 
-- Community Relations 
-- Overview of Public Affairs Events -- Civic Tours, Open 
Houses, etc. 
-- Planning for Public Affairs Events 
-- Military-Media Relations During Military Operations 
-- Media Pools/Embedded Media 
-- Preparing Public Affairs Guidance for Military Operations 
-- Working with the Media:  Two Perspectives 
-- Media Availabilities: Press Conferences, TV Interviews, 
print interviews, speeches followed by Q&A, the "ambush" 
-- Crisis Public Affairs 
-- Practical Exercises:  Exercise press briefings 
-- Public Affairs Products 
-- Operation Focus Relief 
-- Discussion and Planning, Operation Focus Relief Phase III 
14.  In the early sessions of the workshop, the accumulated 
distrust and nursed grudges between the two Nigerian groups 
(military and media) resulted in charges and shouting 
matches.  Bernath skillfully cooled this conflict with a 
special session on self-image and definitions of patriotism 
that clarified much of the gap.  Heads nodded as participants 
saw that the military officers regarded themselves as 
patriotic because of their dedication to the country, while 
the journalists defined patriotism as serving the public with 
needed information. 
15.  Wednesday afternoon of the workshop was devoted to 
preparing for press conferences.  The Public Affairs Section 
of the Embassy helped develop scenarios -) an explosion of 
fuel tanks on an installation, a C-130 crash, and a conflict 
between local citizens and drunken soldiers.  Three teams of 
participants, each team with military public relations 
officers and journalists, worked together to prepare a 
briefer to meet the press, while Bernath, Barnes, and Bishop 
took the roles of aggressive journalists.  This exercise 
joined the two sides with positive results for the remainder 
of the seminar. 
16.  On Thursday afternoon, Bernath led a session that asked 
the participants to consider professional guidelines for the 
interaction between the armed forces public affairs officers 
and the media.  All present agreed on these principles: 
For the media: 
(1)  Media reporting will be objective, factual, balanced, 
and fair. A professional reporter will subjugate tribalism, 
politics, and religion to these goals. 
(2)  A professional journalist must be trained and informed 
about military subjects. 
(3)  Media should be willing to share the risks of military 
operations after training. 
(4)  The media will be sensitive to the legitimate security 
needs of the military. 
For the military: 
(1)  The military will provide complete, timely, accurate, 
and factual information subject to national security 
(2)  The military will ensure accessibility to media to 
adequately inform the Nigerian public of military activities. 
(3)  The military should understand the needs of the media 
and assist them in meeting those needs. 
(4)  The military will provide reasonable assistance to the 
media to cover military related activities and events. 
Despite the numerous qualifiers, the two groups were 
extremely satisfied by the professional airing of their 
discontents and with these proposed guidelines. 
17.  On Friday morning, Embassy Defense Attache Colonel 
Victor Nelson gave a comprehensive and frank briefing of 
Operation Focus Relief, and he deftly answered questions. 
The Embassy CPAO then led the group through a brainstorming 
session focused on preparations for OFR Phase III, due to 
begin in September. 
18.  The first part of the 90 minute session addressed the 
question of audiences -) political leaders, academics, 
youth, the business community, students, religious leaders, 
labor, NGOs, community associations, traditional rulers, and 
"average Nigerians" among them.  The military participants 
also saw a need to use internal information channels to more 
widely inform service members (in non-participating units) 
about OFR. 
19.  The second part addressed possible events that could 
serve as news hooks for media messages.  These included the 
arrival of U.S. soldiers, visits to exercise sites, weapons 
displays, marksmanship training, competitions, an "open day," 
local leader visits, the final ceremony, and the sendoff of 
troops to Sierra Leone.  The participants urged that public 
affairs for OFR Phase III should begin at least two weeks 
ahead of the arrival of American units, and they said that 
Nigerian briefers would have the most credibility with 
Nigerian audiences. 
20.  The third part addressed messages, and there was 
agreement on four major thematic clusters: 
(A)  Mutuality:  The U.S. and Nigeria are working together in 
concert and in harmony, for mutual benefits.  For Nigeria, 
the benefits include new and better equipment for units, 
enhanced training, and better logistics. 
(B)  Explaining Nigeria's National Interests:  Nigerian 
troops play an important role in maintaining peace and 
stability in the subregion.  Nigeria, Africa, and the world 
benefit when Nigeria assumes a leadership role. 
(C)  Re-professionalization:  OFR makes an important 
contribution to the re-professionalization of Nigeria's armed 
forces, whose professional military qualities seriously 
eroded during the period of military rule.  It also 
contributes to combat readiness, and it demonstrates its 
re-focus on military, not political, tasks. 
(D)  The democracy dividend:  The role of the armed forces is 
changing for the better.  It is now firmly committed to the 
constitution, and to a new spirit of military subordination 
to the civilian government.  This is a vital part of the 
nation's focus on good governance.  The people benefit from 
the serious commitment of the armed forces to civilian 
democratic rule. 
21.  GPRA Data:  Date:  25-29 June 2001.  FY-2001, Quarter 3. 
 Audience:  30 armed forces and Ministry of Defense public 
relations specialists including the Director of Defense 
Information and the public relations chiefs of the Army, 
Navy, and Air Force.  15 defense journalists.  Results: 
"Excellent" is an understatement. 

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