Friday, July 26, 2013

Public Diplomacy as a Global Phenomenon: Nigeria

From: Diplomatic Reporting In The 21st Century By Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, MFR, Honourable Minister Of Foreign Affairs: Keynote address - DDR,

6. ... [T]he imperative for a robust engagement with the media cannot be overemphasized. For a nation’s foreign policy exertions to be fruitful, there must be a critical mass of consensus from the public in support of these policies. This is the essence of Public diplomacy, which, in the opinion of Edmund Guillon [sic] (Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University) in 1965, '… deals with the influence of public attitudes on the formulation and execution of foreign policies; … the cultivation by governments of public opinion in other countries…', and I must say, also in our domestic environment; '… the interaction of private groups and interests in one country with another; the reporting of foreign affairs and its impact on policy; the communication between those whose job is communication as diplomats and foreign correspondents ; and the process of inter-cultural communications…'

11. Yet it must be recognised that an increasingly inter-dependent and globalising world, no nation can be an island on itself. Events in one part of the world have extensive ramifications in other parts. The advent of the social media has also raised the bar of public diplomacy. With the internet and introduction of Face-book, Twitter, Black Berry Messenger, Skype and others, have also increased the speed and ease of communication such that information becomes viral in a matter of minutes. The social media, like we are all aware, is perhaps the media of choice for young people to express themselves. Arising from its global reach, it has the capacity to shape opinions and trigger events, on a scale far wider than the conventional media. Its largely unrestricted, unregulated and anonymous use gives room for abuse. Thus, debates on blogs and interactive websites are, often times, abusive and uncivil. This, therefore, highlights the imperative for journalists to cross-check their facts thoroughly before sending out news items, because these days, the social media amplifies news and events, factual or incorrect, as soon as it breaks. There is also the need for balance and objectivity, to uphold the popular axiom that recognises two sides to every story. Irreparable damage can be caused where the social media indulges in recklessly pushing out stories that have not been fact-checked.

12. Rather than ignore some of the reports and comments in the social media, I have always ensured that the Spokesperson responds to such comments so as to clarify situations and events as they unfold. We intend to continue with this engagement so as to keep the Nigerians both at home and abroad to better understand the dynamics of our foreign policy.

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