Role of Media in Security Sector Governance and Reform

21/09/2017 @ 12:15
by Iman Simon

The media plays a key role in both overseeing state activities as well as communicating initiatives and reforms. However at times this relationship can stray.
I am specifically looking for concrete examples and cases where the media and state have collaborated, or improved their working relationships, in order to better inform and communicate ssg initiatives to the wider public. Can anyone draw from concrete initiatives like development of communication strategies, joint trainings etc.?

Grateful for any key resources, references and tools on the topic.

Thank you for your input!

21/09/2017 @ 13:47
by Valentin Wagee

Hello Iman, 

You might want to take a look at a great read from USAID I used when I was working on Libya:

However, the focus on partisanship might make it too specific in your case. Hope this helps!

Best regards, 


22/09/2017 @ 12:23
by Cornelia-Adriana Baciu

Hi Imam,

Perhaps these two studies might be relevant for consideration:  (Palestine)

Preliminary findings of my doctoral research suggest that CSOs, in particular those operating at high-level (Track 1.5 or 2), play an active role in engaging media for disseminating information related to SSR and SSG to the general public.



04/10/2017 @ 16:55
by Thammy Evans

Dear All,

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions so far. I note that the DCAF Media and SSR tool links don't all work, with the one to Tool 2: Media and SSG being the most relevant, so I have uploaded it here.

The important role of a free media as an oversight mechanism is now quite well established. However, I think two crucial elements of this role have yet to be well understood, namely:

  1. the responsibility the media has to accurately report balanced facts and the role it therefore plays in educating the public on security sector issues, implying therefore that the media itself has an obligation to understand the security sector properly. This is the role of a security editor, which many media outlets don't even have.
  2. the responsibility of security providers to understand the important role of communications on their area, and therefore to play a constructive role in educating the media and via them the public on issue of importance to the security of citizens.

Many security actors know little how to help accurately inform the media through less adversarial measures such as a news briefing, editorial board, or media advisory. This is not helped by the fact that in many countries where information on security was taboo, even major news outlets do not have a security editors, such as the likes of Matthew Symonds (Economist), Rohit Kachroo (ITV News), Tom Whitehead (Telegraph) - (BTW can anyone find a female security editor?)

Scotland Police has released their Communications and Engagement Strategy in 2015, and this is an excellent example of how a security actor can constructively and openly engage with the media and other oversight actors, including via internal as well as external communications.

For those security actors who struggle with how to deal with the media, some guidance is available online, such as the EU's Central Europe Programme Communications Guidebook (2009), or UNESCO's Media Relations guidance. But neither of these are as specific to the security sector. 

I for one would certainly welcome seeing more suggestions here of positive case studies, and any templates on media relations strategies that could be used by security professionals.

ENG_Media_Tool2.pdf (4 MB)
20/10/2017 @ 10:06
by Pedro Mendes

Dear Iman,

Having worked extensively both in/with media and SSR/G, I’d sum-up the importance of media for security governance and reform in two dimensions, complementary and interconnected, yet different: one is about responsible coverage, the other involves meaningful democratic participation. The former dimension was addressed already; I’ll thus refer only to the latter here.

Media are a security actor on their own and this should be dealt with as a matter of fact, with no prejudice. Well beyond a communicational approach, media should be consciously accepted as a crucial component of the security sector governance architecture in a democratic society, providing oversight and public accountability mostly as a leverage of transparency. Media are a crucial (albeit not the only) knot where national/homeland security and citizen security are articulated, negotiated and (ideally) balanced for the sake of what can be defined as the public good. Democracy, civil liberties and the rule of law, essential elements to our common understanding of that good, depend on it. Moreover, media are powerful initiators of ownership and engagement, a particular feature often overlooked in reform contexts. Indeed, “most of us do little and know less; most people are not interested in most public issues most of the time”, as bluntly pointed by Aaron Wildavsky in “Speaking Truth to Power”.

The dramatic changes brought by ever-evolving information technologies, compounded by the emergence of new threats to peace and security, expanded the areas of potential friction between legitimate security concerns and individual fundamental freedoms. This challenge is posed across developed, developing and fragile contexts. The debate over freedom of information and expression versus national security is not new. The “Pentagon Papers” case in 1971 is a good illustration of it but the classic tension was reshaped in the face of mass surveillance and data collection, as shown by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

When looking today at the role of media in SSR/G, one should therefore invite intelligence reform to the conversation, as it impacts directly on the possibility and extent of media investigation and disclosure, the enablers of transparency. Real whistleblower protection is an obvious entry-point to the discussion, as are secrecy governance frameworks and public information access policies. It is also difficult to delink media and intelligence governance from what is now called cybersecurity, a somewhat pompous name for new technological platforms to old issues of democratic accountability – as extensively analysed in “Liberty and Security in a Changing World’, the landmark report by President’s [Obama] Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

Going back to the two dimensions of coverage and participation, from the perspective of democratic governance, the topic of media and SSR/G should encompass the fine balance between the right of disclosure and the interest of confidence. As well noted by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn – the author of The Gulag Archipelago - “our freedom is built on what others do not know of our existences”.

25/10/2017 @ 11:15
by Ben Steward

Hi all, I'm new to the SSR/G world, but not so new to media. I’d be interested to hear about the impacts of fake news and ‘alternative facts’ on SSG, what new challenges the phenomena present for security actors and possible measures to counter them. Public trust is the media's lifeblood, but that trust is reportedly at an all-time low, partly because of a number of coordinated, strategically deployed fake news operations with the specific aim of manipulating public opinion. Is there a legislative solution to this, or should more onus be placed on educating media consumers to distinguish between information and disinformation?