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NUSOJ Launches study on role of media in national strategy for preventing and countering violent extremism

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today launched a ground-breaking study on Somalia’s National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism(P/CVE) and the extent to which it recognizes the role of the media in preventing and countering violent extremism.

A critical analysis of the national P/CVE strategy, the study comes as Somalia embarks on a review of the 2016 National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism. The study dissects the approach and examines the relationship between media and state and how the hostile treatment of journalists and the media in general has prevented them from making a more robust contribution P/CVE.

In view of the current situation in Somalia, the Somali authorities must view the media as a strategic partner rather than an adversary. It is only through a powerful and trust-based symbiosis between government and media that an effective action-oriented P/CVE strategy can be delivered. And this imperative will assume greater significance as the Federal Government works to align Somalia’s counterterrorism strategy with its six-pillar national programme.

“The study critically examined the dominant themes of radicalization and violent extremism, its drivers as well as vulnerable groups and the causes of vulnerability,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

The study, which was funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), also examines the challenging role of media as informers of society and the increasing attempts by extremists to use the media as a vehicle to spread their destructive narratives. To cure this, the report advocates closer involvement of the media as the government updates the existing strategy.

“Consequently, any strategy, especially one developed by the Government, should not fail to prioritize the role of the media in P/CVE. Indeed, serious consideration should be given to the active involvement of the media in devising and drafting such a strategy since journalists are uniquely placed to ensure that communication priorities are firmly rooted in media practice,” added Osman.

NUSOJ further warns that, if the strategy fails to embrace constructive engagement with media, “there is a significant risk that attempts to counter violent extremism will fail to achieve their declared goals.”

“Any strategic communication strategy will be incomplete without media involvement since it is only through mainstream media that strategic messaging can reach a mass audience, thereby establishing and developing a credible P/CVE agenda. The absence of media participation will limit the strategy’s power to persuade and motivate citizens to take action against violent extremism and, consequently, the impact of any communication campaign is likely to be severely blunted,” the study says in one of its conclusions.

The study also recommends the structure and content of the P/CVE strategy should be adjusted to make it more accessible to stakeholders who may wish to use it as a point of reference. The strategy’s failure to prioritise media as a crucial tool for implementing strategic communication plans is identified as a critical shortcoming.

“It is important to note that this study is the first of its kind in Somalia.  For this, I would like to express my gratitude to the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for its financial support and to our partners from the IGAD Centre of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (ICEPCVE) and the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) for our highly productive cooperation in this intervention that ensures P/CVE efforts can benefit from rigorous research and analysis” Osman asserted.

“I sincerely believe that this study will play an important role not only in providing the National Strategy on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism with new perspectives   but also in influencing the way in which the Federal Government and the FMS engage with journalists and news media organisations in their combined efforts to counter violent extremism,” NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman says in the foreword to the study.