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Information Disorder in The Media: Implication For National Security In The Sub-Region Of West Africa: The Case of Ghana

A Working Paper for the Kwame Karikari Fellowship for the 2021 Session

Abstract

The implication of ‘information disorder’ on national security is on the rise owing to the rapid spread of fake news both on the new and old media platforms. This disorder undermines the value of information as a core strategic instrument within the context of governance in a democracy, especially in national security governance. One of the key sources of intelligence gathering by the intelligence community such as “open source intelligence” which largely relies on information disseminated in the media is often affected. While national security depends, among other factors, on open-source intelligence in managing risks, fake news in the media does not only heightens this risk, it poses as a threat, thus complicating the tasks of the national security apparatus. Although the intentions of spreading fake news vary, one outstanding motive of terror groups or belligerents is to mislead the public, distract the government, and divert the attention on national security from their targets. Drawing on cases of fake news bordering on national security in the West African sub-region, this paper combines theories of media and communication with national security theories to interrogate the questions of information disorder and the implications for national security management in the region.  The significance of this approach is that a combination of theories of the media and national security allows us to look at the problems of information disorder from multiple lenses and to bring erstwhile distinct fields of study together in addressing important questions bordering each field.

Introduction

In every democratic dispensation, free flow of information is crucial for people to know what their government is doing (Roger; CBS, 1971). It also enables them to provide their perspectives on issues that affect them most (BBC World Service Trust, 2008) in the process of governance and to also aid in holding government and public officials accountable (Rhea, 2012; Roger, 1971). The media (old and new) serve as conduit for information flow and play crucial roles in the democratic process, more importantly serving as an important source for intelligence gathering for national security management (Rhea, 2012; Loch, 2007). However, information disorder-misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and the manipulation(s) of the media– can disrupt the free flow of information, which can have adverse effects on how political actors perceive the world around them (Roger, 1971). Important actors impacted by information disorder include security institutions, such as the government and its agencies, particularly the national security apparatuses, the media, and the citizens at large. National Security (NS) connotes what states do both covertly and overtly to provide protection for their citizens, territorial boundaries, environment and national interests. Their operations are largely dependent on information flow. NS apparatuses, therefore, use media to access information for open-source intelligence (OSINT) gatherings.

National security concerns itself with a multidisciplinary focus ranging from managing security challenges, protecting the core values of a nation-state, national/foreign policy, its economy, territorial boundaries, among others. It is aimed at protecting the state from both internal and external aggressions. It, therefore, has no single definition or concept about its operations. Huntington (1957), sees national security as a strategic policy designed to protect the interest and territorial boundaries of a nation-state. According to him (Huntington, 1957, p.1), national security concerns itself more in the provision of security to protect the state’s political, social and economic institutions. He postulates that, the success of national security policy largely depends upon how security operatives (military and state agencies) position themselves in managing security affairs of the state in security hybrid situations. In his analyses, the safety of the state is paramount and should be protected by state agencies with absolute loyalty to the state. Buzan (1983, 1991), sees the concept of national security to connote the promotion and protection of human and environmental security. In his postulate, national security is aimed at ensuring human safety, thereby ensuring that anything that could jeopardize that safety including the protection of the environment the referent object survives on. According to Loch (2007), national security is all about intelligence gathering and data assessment for the safety of state, its citizens and other national interests. Loch (2007) postulates further that, successful national security management depends upon security operatives’ dedication and their ability to timely counter any threat both internal and external that can jeopardize the safety of a referent of object such as a nation-state. According to him, NS is all about dictating (intelligence gathering), the activities of belligerence, and acting swiftly to thwart their efforts before they strike. Loch (2007) outlines open-source intelligence (OSINT) as one of the major means national security successfully operates. OSINT is gathering information for national security purposes through the news-media (old and new). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP 1994, p. 22), perceives national security in relation to human security. This concept stresses on what state meant to do in order to maintain internal security to ensure human rights, human safety from violence and sustainable development. Thomas and Tow (2002, p. 179), agree to the UN concept of national security since it has an increased impact on national security.

This research is limited to the geopolitical location of Ghana. The country will be divided into three blocks (Northern, Middle and Coastal belts, to measure the impact of information disorder on national security. The purpose of this paper is to identify the implications of information disorder for national security. It is also targeted at establishing the concrete relationships between information and the three other security actors such as the media, citizens, government/national security apparatus. It will enable proper policy formation to curb the current effects of information disorder on security governance and to also address its future challenges to democracies in the sub-region of West Africa. This research will establish the factors that determine how each element functions and contributes to the security management process in every democracy, particularly Ghana. It will also expose some of the underlying factors that affect the collective roles in the afore-stated elements (information, media, security institution, and citizens) in consolidating democracy, not only in Ghana, but in the sub-region as a whole. This research will employ the qualitative methodology based on the constructivist paradigm, using a case study method. The qualitative research method concerns itself with the assessment of a phenomenon based on the researcher’s subjectivity (Kothari, 2004; Karina et al., 2011; Yin, 1994). It is used to appreciate and explain a social phenomenon using qualitative data, such as interviews, documents, and observations (Kothari, 2004; Haradhan, 2018).

Even though the case study approach is not only limited to qualitative research methodology, it also appears more suitable for this study. Using multiple case designs is appropriate for this research. I am keen to draw four cases from Ghana to gather data and draw up my conclusion based on the retrieved facts. Consequently, in this research work, we will use news reportage from 2017 to 2021 in the old media space (radio, television and the print media) and selected contents on the new or digital media platforms (social media) such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube for analysis and conclusions.

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