Media's role in national security -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Media’s role in national security

By Ikram Sehgal

In “Politics among Nations”, Hans Morgenthau defined national security as “the integrity of the national territory and its institutions.” Till recently, national security meant a state’s freedom from another state.

Globalisation has made national borders irrelevant and brought about radical changes in the concept of national security. Traditionally, the military has been at the heart of security policy; now national security is evaluated more in terms of human, economic and cultural terms than in the securing of territorial space by the military.

National security is divided into state security and societal security, the former based on territorial security, the latter centred on identity. Weakening of territorial security, due to the influences of globalisation, has left identities far more exposed and threatened. National security involves protecting the nation’s infrastructure, the potency of its foreign policy and economy, the civil rights of its citizens, trade and work availability and the essentials of national sovereignty. Three factors in the 21st Century predominate national security: the economy, the demographic movement of people and the threats and attacks by extremists.

To fully understand the concept of national security, one must define and explain National Purpose, National Interest, National Aims and National Objectives. These will in turn define the Strategic Vision to necessarily include: (1) Domestic and foreign interests, goals and objectives vital to the national security of the Pakistan. (2) Foreign policy, the commitments thereof and the minimum defence necessary to deter aggression, to implement the country’s security objectives by political, economic, military, and other elements of national power and (3) Potential and capability to carry out the national security strategy.

National Purpose (shared values and beliefs) envisages viz (1) a prosperous and peaceful country where all citizens have right to worship, life, property and speech (2) Equality of opportunity, with merit as the final standard for all jobs/slots and not the disqualifier it is today (3) Liberal/tolerant modern state with an Islamic ideology (4) Welfare state with both the State and private sector working in cooperation with each other with a strong institutional framework encouraging individuals and businesses to support less affluent classes (5) Strengthening democratic traditions by creating a real grass-root democracy having all decision-making, political posts directly elected and with a second round “run-off elections”, i.e. any individual not getting 50 per cent must face his nearest opponent.

National Interests (continuing ends) envisages viz (1) Preservation of Pakistan’s integrity as a sovereign Islamic democratic state in a hostile regional environment. Guarding the country’s economic, territorial and ideological boundaries without making loud claims or rhetoric.

National Aims (conditions in future) envisages politically viz (1) a stable political system ensuring grassroots participation and genuine devolution of power, political continuity that guarantees law and order and encourages economic activity optimising the potential of the country in all spheres of life (2) Balance in civil-military relations with primacy of civilian authority (3) Unity of effort in all state activities and decision-making, including conduct of foreign policy, intelligence gathering, administrative/economic/financial decision-making, effectively eliminating state within state type agencies or agencies whose tasks are duplicated by other agencies.

National Objectives (time-barred milestones) envisages viz (1) settlement of outstanding disputes with neighbours for a short period to break with the situation of an undeclared war, making the region a potential nuclear flashpoint (2) strengthening the country to meet the challenges of globalisation (3) sensible privatisation of economy with a mix of public sector participation which safeguards social aspirations of the citizens. We further need to (5) Institutionalize national economic decision making with the present Planning Commission being replaced by a less bureaucratic, more flexible, technocratic agency with representatives of public and private sector (6) Involving the private sector and evolving provincial consensus on all vital national issues, particularly water (7) Deal with most serious economic threat i.e. population growth (8) Integrate Pakistan’s agricultural, industrial and technical potential rather than developing one sector at the cost of the other (9) The tax laws should be rationalised and quantum of taxes reduced. Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) must be further revamped (10) A pro-active media strategy must encompass both the domestic and foreign media.

There is no institutionalised decision-making process in Pakistan. This country has been trying “ad hoc” and “containment” measures in one form or the other for 60 years. There is no focus and coherence in terms of values, interests and objectives. The inadequacies of the present system, are viz, (1) despite well-structured intelligence organisations, the armed forces have limited inputs from policymakers or experts in the field of foreign policy and economic management (2) very limited coordination between the civilian intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of the armed forces (3) There is an institutionalised decision-making process in GHQ, but how can GHQ understand the complexities of civilian governance? A wide gap exists between the perspectives and assessments of the military establishment and the elected civilian set-up on different aspects of national security, recurrent political instability is due to periodical tensions between the two. (4) the Defence Committee of the Cabinet rarely discusses major national security issues and (5) Decision-making is only possible by having a permanent NSC Secretariat staffed by the finest brainpower that is available in the country. Executives for the NSC can be drawn from both the civilian and military establishments.

A comprehensive “National Security Strategy”, must fulfill three national security goals, viz (a) enhancing our security, (b) promoting prosperity at home, and (c) promoting democracy ñ under which to integrate all of the government’s efforts to advance Pakistan’s interests. The detailed evaluation must include viz (1) the domestic and foreign interests, goals and objectives vital to the national security of the Pakistan (2) foreign policy, the commitments thereof, and the country’s defence necessary to deter aggression and to implement the country’s security objectives by political, economic, military, and other elements of national power and (3) the potential and capability to carry out the National Security Strategy and support its implementation.

National Security Strategy must serve five primary purposes, viz (1) to communicate strategic vision to both the Executive and Parliament as both need a common understanding of the strategic environment and the administration’s intent as a starting point for future dialogue (2) to communicate the same common vision to the citizens of the country, to the intelligentsia and the masses alike (3) to communicate coherence and farsightedness in the security policies of government: that all citizens fully support (4) to document a strategy where none exists! and (5) to contribute in substance and presentation, to the overall agenda of the head of state and/or chief executive of government. What is needed is an interactive, interagency process to resolve differences.

Because of the bankruptcy of our policies, Pakistan is under pressure internationally from disparate forces with vested interest and under attack domestically by the forces of evil, their appetite for loot and plunder not yet satiated after more than half a century. In terms of national security, media plays a watchdog role in holding both the govt and the citizens accountable in matters of governance.

The media today has evolved into a multi-faceted entity that plays an extremely important role in transmitting the claims of social, economic and political movements to the decision-makers and the public. Independent media defines and promotes matters of national interests, viz (1) building and sustaining democracies (2) societies and (3) economies around the world. They provide citizens with the information necessary to make informed political and economic choices.

Increasingly, a vital part of national security, the media is divided into three concentric spheres: In the centre are concepts and values that are accepted without question ñ the ësphere of consensusí. The ësphere of legitimate controversyí comprises arguments contained within particular parameters. Legitimacy is decided by institutions and bodies which determine when and what ëchangeí is approved. Outside of this, is the ësphere of deviancyí, to where people and issues unworthy of serious consideration are relegated.

Media professionals have been at the vanguard of creating political change, being in the forefront of most of the political revolutions that have taken place over the past three hundred years. The words of Benjamin Franklin and Jean-Paul Marat inspired the American colonists and French revolutionaries to take up arms against the monarchs who ruled them. The valiant efforts of journalists and underground media to continue reporting under repressive circumstances helped keep the struggle for freedom alive.

Granted that the media today enjoys more freedom than perhaps at any time in our short history; however because of Pakistanís media policy not being open, bold or courageous, the media has been unable to flourish in a healthy manner. It still does not enjoy the type of freedom that is its right in a democratic setup. Even then the media in Pakistan has performed quite well in the face of stiff resistance and underhand ploys by the Establishment, being increasingly subjected to a systematic pattern of harassment and victimisation, to different types of intimidation and strong-arm tactics with the aim of silencing the voices of truth.

Media upholds accountability and exposes corrupt practices, one that enables a society to make well informed choices, which is the precursor of democratic practices and good governance and nation-building. Frequently, their efforts have led to the resignation of high-ranking government officials, but sadly, this is truer in the developed countries rather than in developing countries.

Todayís current access to real-time global events giving near ìreal-timeî news coverage has altered the process in national decision-making and national power, this influences our ability as well as that of our adversary to quickly manage its effects. This also works in reverse, and used properly will affect the decision making cycle of an adversary targeted in an informational operations campaign. This is not just advancement in technology, but the evolution and dispersion of informational power.

Media has repeatedly shown its inability at being mature enough for an objective analysis and presentation on issues of consequence. While the right to disagree is a fundamental prerogative and one has to respect that right, there must be logic and force in the arguments. Governments must be held accountable by the print media in third world countries, criticism must be done in good faith, at seeking improvements in the prevailing situation, rather than for denigrating something or maligning somebody. As an element of national power, the media plays an important role in high-level decision-making and strategy formulation. Within the informational element of power, it provides another weapon used to attack the enemy psychologically as well as to gain public support within oneís own nation. The media can affect the morale of enemy soldiers and that of the citizens of their nationís, whqqose support will wane if unhappy with the political-military situation.

Information warfare may include (a) Command and Control Warfare (b) Intelligence-based warfare (c) Electronic warfare (d) Psychological warfare (e) Hacker warfare (f) Economic Information warfare and (g) Cyber warfare. In classical military terms, the use of information is an attempt to lift ìthe fog of warî that envelops the battlefield. Commanders have always tried to acquire accurate information; what is different is that modern IT appears to provide a greater opportunity to clear away the fog than ever before. Armed forces naturally strive for “information dominance” or “knowledge superiority” in any conflict, information has become more important to victory. This also implies that deception, disinformation, and the use of mass media are also of increasing value as military tools.

The main principles of war propaganda are based on four premises, viz (1) The one who wants the war is always the opponent (2) making known all the serious faults of the enemy in the person of their chief or their governing body (3) motives for a war action are always humanitarian or idealistic and (4) wide-spreading full details on the usual atrocities of the opposing army.

PsyOps is the changed name for ìpsy warî as the terminology for use of media by nations to support their national objectives. It is a round-the-clock weapon which is not a matter of choice for nations anymore. Unless you come out scientifically to defeat the hostile objectives, you will be the ultimate loser. PsyOps has to be, viz (1) a planned activity at the national forum. (2) tactical propaganda/psyops has to be decentralised to keep the exigencies of the situation into perspective. Tactical operation cannot compromise on strategic themes, PsyOps objectives are: (a) Conversionary: To change emotional allegiance to ideology – in the case of Pakistan it is targeted against the Two Nation Theory, fundamentalism, etc. (b) Divisive: To split the country into regional and sub-cultural entities, to highlight maximum friction between provinces and accentuate ethnic and linguistic differences (c) Counter propaganda: Countries need to adopt scientific techniques to rebut enemy propaganda and also to keep in mind that only countering does not achieve results, propaganda needs to be an offensive weapon and not a reactive one. Pakistan mainly remains on the defensive which is against the psyops principle.

The new way of making war is cynical and amoral in involving and persuading millions of people.. The lords of this new media war are the communication and image experts closely tied to the political power, producing a sophisticated kind of communication in comparison with the classic state propaganda. They use the same witty psychology, supported by great financial means that is employed by advertisement groups to successfully launch a product in the market.

The propositions for media and national security are viz (1) Media perceptions and representation of other countries are highly biased, selective and stereotyped (2) The media have become the agents of government and elitist propaganda, they are obstacles to regional peace and stability and (3) The media play a significant role in fuelling ethno-religious conflicts, having far-reaching implications for regional integration.

To sum up, in terms of national security, the media has a primary role in protecting the nationís infrastructure, the potency of its foreign policy and economy, and the civil rights of its citizens.
Source: The News