As part of United States continued assistance to Nigeria in the war against terrorism, the United States has concluded plans to launch a 24-hour satellite television in the troubled Northern part of Nigeria to counter the spread of terrorism activities of Boko Haram in the region, Tribune reports.
The television project, which is to be financed by the United States Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, according to the New York Times, will cost about six million US Dollars and will be used to sensitise the people of the North to the criminal activities of the Boko Haram sect and also redirect the orientation of the teeming youth.
The television channel, to be called Arewa24, according to US officials who spoke to New York Times, is being established with full collaboration of the Nigerian government.
The project, the newspaper disclosed, was “started last year and is run in Nigeria by Equal Access International, a San Francisco-based government contractor that has managed media programmes sponsored by the State Department in Yemen and Pakistan, which encourage youth participation in politics, in addition to countering Islamist extremism.
“Work on the project is nearing completion, but broadcasts have not yet begun,” it was reported.
State Department officials, who spoke to the newspaper, it claimed, “insisted that the Nigerian government was aware of the television project and that it had not planned to hide the American support for the programme, which has not been previously disclosed. However, US sponsorship will not be advertised or promoted,” a State Department official said.
American officials believed the television channel is crucial to countering the extremism of radical groups such as Boko Haram. The move, it claimed, is a signal of the decision of the US government to increase its counterinsurgency efforts to directly challenge the Boko Haram terrorist group that has been globally disclaimed for its kidnappings and mindless murders of innocent people.
The goal of the satellite television channel “is to provide original content, including comedies and children’s programmes that will be created, developed and produced by Nigerians. State Department officials said they hoped to provide an alternative to the violent propaganda and recruitment efforts of Boko Haram,” the report stated.
A US government official who spoke on the project said the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls was a game-changer, saying “it demonstrates the need for a strong and durable alternative narrative to the destructive narrative of Boko Haram and other violent extremists.”
Documents obtained by the New York Times “show that the television channel is to target youths, either subtly or explicitly, with Hausa language programmes that deliver themes which reject political violence and violent extremism, but do not include news or political reporting.”
Although foreign policy experts have been applauding the State Department’s programmes to counter the deadly onslaught of Boko Haram and other extremist groups, they outlined challenges the new satellite project would face in a region with low levels of infrastructure, public services, literacy and security, especially where only few people own or have access to televisions. They pinpointed the electricity challenges of the country as one of the critical challenges.
But State Department officials, according to the New York Times, acknowledged that setting up an American-supported channel could prove challenging in a region such as the North of Nigeria “where the American government and Western educational programmess are far from popular and where the Boko Haram has not hidden its distaste for media organisations and had launched attacks on some of them.”
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