Q6.

Is there evidence of regular, active public debate on issues of defence? If yes, does the government participate in this debate?

6a. Public debate

Score

SCORE: 25/100

Assessor Explanation

Assessor Sources

6b. Government engagement in public discourse

Score

SCORE: 25/100

Assessor Explanation

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Outside the government, there is an occasional and superficial public debate in the media about defence issues. Freedom of expression with regards to national security, national defence and public order is generally restrained by the information code. Art. 2 states that journalists can practice their work freely as long as they respect, “national identity, the cultural values of society, national sovereignty and national unity, as well as the requirements of national security, national defence, public order, and the country’s economic interests, among others” (1). Articles written about the military only write very generally about it (2) (3). Furthermore, the reporting about the fight against terrorism only broadly speaks about the topic and there does not seem to be a debate about it (4) (5). There are also defence-related debates on blogs, such as Defense Arab (6), or Forums Arab Military Science (7).

There is evidence that the Algerian government engages in public discourse, but only one way. Journalists report that security officers approach journalists, but it is not possible to do so vice-versa. The security officials decide what information they provide the journalists (1).

The Algerian Armed Forces publishes a monthly magazine, which is also available, on the website of the Ministry of Defence in French and Arabic. In the magazine, the armed forces inform the public about their fight against terrorism and organized crime. The articles published in the magazine are in line with the official narrative of the armed forces (2).

There is extremely limited public debate outside the government and ruling party-driven initiatives about defence issues. The partisan nature of such debates makes in-depth discussions unlikely. For example, the National Defense Institute of the Ministry of Defense that organizes regular courses and on defence issues for the military, academics and government officials, has also organized debates for students and youth, in partnership with a government-funded and MPLA-friendly CSO, the National Youth Council (1), (2).

Senior government and military officials do occasionally speak publicly about the national defence strategy, mostly in the form of one-way communication, i.e.statements (1).

Although Article 8 of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedoms of opinion, of the press and the right to information (1), under Comapaore’s presidency many journalists and other press professionals were caught and jailed for their opinions. Freedom of the press and expressions were violated and suppressed. For example, a well-known investigative Journalist was assassinated on December 13, 1998 (2). This resulted in many criticisms of the military, and particularly those of the RSP. This also happened after the September 16, 2016, military coup perpetrated by the RSP (The Regiment of Presidential Security) (2). After this incidence, defence issues have been debated by media, as well as in academia, notably on the dissolution of the RSP and the depoliticization of the armed forces (3).

Saidou reported that “the first attempt was that of the debate on the adoption of the transitional charter in November 2014. Civil society had proposed a “defence and security commission” among the bodies of the transition, to reflect on the reform of the security sector. The army, little open to external control, had objected. It was a few months later that the reform of the army was introduced into the agenda of the transition when it was included in the remit of the Commission for National Reconciliation and Reforms (CRNR), an established body by the charter of the transition” (3).

The government does not participate in public debates, as it still does not share much of its information (1). However, despite the lack of government engagement in public debates the government has initiated a bill of law on the creation of the High Authority for State Control and Anti-Corruption (ARSE-LC), a government body, which the CNT passed on November 2015 (2). The government also initiated law at the ministerial level as well. Hence, the law on the creation of the Gold Anti-Fraud Squad (BNAF), at the Ministry of Mines was passed in January 2008 to monitor corruption and fraud within the sector of mines (US Department of State 2010) (3). Yet, very recently, the Ministry of Civil Service, Employment and Social Welfare adopted its 2017 – 2019 National Plan of Action to address corruption (MCSESW 2017) (4).

Public debate about defence issues has increased with the advent of the Boko Haram conflict and the Anglophone Crisis [1] [2], despite frequent threats and reprisals from government forces and officials [3]. Media houses carry on debates on defence-related issues although these are often superficial or in line with government policy (but also sometimes in defiance of the Government’s restrictive legal regime over the media). As an example of the superficial coverage, the national television channel has slots where military issues are discussed and debated but this is carried out under a strictly censored regime or if done by independent outlets it is self-censored in order to avoid reprisals [3]. The Director of Communication at the Ministry of Defence has been on public and private media to discuss issues linked with the fight against Boko Haram. However, journalists from private media houses who tried to probe into security issues were charged with crimes on terrorisim based on the Anti-terrorism Law of December 2014 [3] [4]. For example, Almed Abba was arrested and questioned about the activities of Boko Haram while he was covering attacks by the militant group and the refugee issues. He was detained for seven months, tried for charges of terrorism and sentenced to ten years in prison [4].

Freedom House has also reported on the restrictive legal regime (such as police questioning, lawsuits and extrajudicial detention by the government) faced by the media and journalists reporting on sensitive subjects like the Boko Haram crisis and the Anglophone crisis [3]. Other recent examples of the restrictive media environment and limitations on public discussion of security and defence-related issues in Cameroon include the following: “France 24 journalist Zigoto Tchaya was detained for a day by masked security officers while reporting on Anglophone protests in Bamenda; National Communication Council (CNC) banned three newspapers and sanctioned over 20 journalists, publishers, and outlets; blocked internet in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon; directives issued by the Cameroon authorities to private broadcasters to stop airing debates about demonstrators’ grievances when the Anglophone unrest started in 2016”. These are joined by threats to journalists, media outlets and mobile network providers in connection with coverage of the protest movement, or attempts to pay off journalists to report in favour of the government (as in the case of Moki Edwin Kindzeka, a journalist for Voice of America and the state-owned broadcaster, who was offered money in exchange for more favourable coverage of Paul Biya) [3].

The Government of Cameroon engages with the public on issues of defence. The Minister of Communication usually holds press conferences and briefings on salient issues concerning defence in the country [1] [2] [3]. These press conferences and briefings, which are usually broadcast on national television, include journalists from private media houses. However, journalists from certain media houses (CRTV journalists and other media houses sympathetic to the government and the ruling political party, CPDM) are usually given preferential treatment when it comes to questions [1]. The Minister of Communication’s press conferences are usually one-sided and in response to attacks that have been made by mostly international organisations against government abuses or excesses in executing defence or secuirty measures [2].

The Ministry of Defence also has a slot on the national radio station where military experts are brought on to discuss security issues but it is done under a strict censorship regime to give an overview of the current military challenges faced by Cameroon’s armed and security forces and to refute allegations made against the Government’s repressive and abusive measures. The Government does not engage in any meaningful debate with the public [4]. The Director of Communication at the Ministry of Defence has appeared on public and private media to discuss issues linked with the fight against Boko Haram. However, journalists from private media houses who tried to probe security issues have been charged with crimes to do with terrorism based on the Anti-terrorism Law of December 2014. See explanation in 6A [4] [5] [6] [7].

Evidence of debates about security and defence issues take place occasionally in the public sphere. But given the climate of political polarization following the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011 and the recurrent mutinies of soldiers in Q1 2017, current discussions can be described as lacking depth.

There were public debates on TV. For example, in October 2018, during the show “Sunday Guest”, the Secretary of Maritimes businesses discussed terrorism issues but the discussion remained superficial given that certain information including the detailed budget is not publicized. This information was made available to the media as well.

Still, public debates related to the reform of the security sector (SSR, RSS) took place as part of an attempt to build a civil society consensus. Many were promoted by the UN peacekeeping force (UNOCI) through 2017 when its mandate expired. The discussions were about the future roles and the responsibilities of defence and security institutions, among others (1).

A report by Aline Leboeuf from the Paris-based IFRI (Institut français des relations Internationales) in March 2016 highlighted how President Outtara was dealing with the SSR process, including the setting up a National Security Council (Conseil National de Sécurité, CNS) tasked with publishing the strategies put forth by the government and define SSR objectives to generate institutional and public discourse (2).

For example, in December 2013, the CNS co-organized a 4-day workshop in Abidjan together with UNOCI targeting public media. The objective was to disseminate SSR strategies and to highlight the role of CSOs and public media in national reconciliation (3).

The engagement by defence establishments such as the MoD can be characterized as inconsistent and exclusive of highly polarizing issues. The intention is not so much to establish a regular public discourse as it is to communicate about the seizure of drug caches, high-level meetings of the minister of defence, international forums attended by MoD officials (1).

The only press release on the MoD website (12 April 2017) under the “Communiqués de presse” tab is about the 6th high-level meeting in Abidjan on 2-5 May 2017 for Ministers of Defense from the member states of the Sahel-Sahara Community (Communauté des états sahélo-sahariens) (2).

Still, there are attempts at establishing a public discourse. On June 5, 2018, for example, Minister of the Interior and Security Sidike Diakite met members of Ivorian civil society to familiarize them with government policy regarding peace initiatives, national security and development issues. The consultations served as a platform to debate about national reconciliation, freedom of expression and human rights, among others (2).

There is no public debate on issues related to the defence sector. When they rarely take place occur, they are debated by supporters of the military and are not critical of any of its strategies or operations. Moreover, academics and researchers restrain from engaging in the debate on the security sector, fearing persecution (1), (2), (3). There is limited public debate regarding some defence issues, namely counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices; military trial for civilians; military’s increasing role in the economy. However, taking part in these debates or involvement in any type of activism increases the risk of retaliation for those involved, including being tried by the military. For example, when military journalist Ismail al-Iskandarani was engaged in researching the military operations in Sinai, was arrested and subjected to a military trial and prison, despite being a civilian (4). Egypt’s Chief Auditor Hisham Geneina (also a civilian) was sentenced to military prison for “spreading false news about the military”. This is believed to be a retaliation against his determination while being the director of the Central Auditing Agency (CAA) to subject military business to his institution’s scrutiny and later for his support for a rival presidential candidate opposing President al-Sisi in the 2018 elections (5).

There is only one-way debate or communication from the army to the public. Furthermore, many assert that the army instructs media outlets to send messages supporting the army to the public (1), (2), (3). Laws in Egypt prohibit the publishing of any security-related news or information except from official sources that are the relevant security authority. Media bans are often issued for military court cases, especially if it involves a politically sensitive topic. This makes communication of defence issues limited with very little tolerance for public engagement. Because there is only a one-way debate, this sub-indicator scored 0.

Outside the government, public debate about defence issues is extremely limited. According to the publicly available information, only the most salient issues are discussed in Parliament and in public media (Modern Ghana, Myjoyonline, GhanaWeb, Ghana News Agency, Graphic Online) (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6).

For instance, recently this year (March 2018) the MoU on defence cooperation with the United States has been at the centre of a public debate involving Parliament, the media, and the public (7). The parliamentary debate occurred in a polarised context with the minority party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), eventually boycotting the ratification vote (8). In another episode this year (May 2018), the interior and defence ministers appeared before Parliament to refer to the clashes between police and armed forces in the Northern region (9).

There is no evidence of regular engagement of the government with academia, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6). The only example, of any effort at engagement, is geared toward journalists in a meet the press series run by the executive where questions are asked on a range of defence and security related issues. However, by asking for parliamentary approval for the MoU, the government demonstrated a willingness to engage with Parliament. Similar agreements in the past (signed in 1998 and 2015 by the Rawlings and Mahama governments respectively) did not go through the same ratification process (7), (8).

Public debate around defence in Jordan is scarce, and is limited to academics, journalists, and opinion-formers, rather than CSOs. Jordan has several laws that restrict freedom of expression generally and those laws have an impact on the space academics, journalists, opinion formers and CSOs have to debate defence in particular [1, 2]. In the past year, there were several publications around defence, however, those publications were superficial either in the form of news reporting or commentary around the role of the Armed Forces in defending the country. News reporting on defence budgets was related to parliamentary approval of overall state annual budgets in general, and that of the Armed Forces in particular [3]. Media reporting and academic debates in the past years have, probably due to the Syrian crisis, focused heavily on the counter-terrorism measures taken by the defence sector in the country, but none of this was in-depth or regular [4, 5]. Through research into all local media platforms, we did not find any reporting or commentary that critically assessed the issue of defence [6]. Freedom of expression, particularly in relation to state institutions and the armed forces, is restricted by law, thus limiting the debate, making it occasional, lacking in-depth and uncritical.

The Government’s engagement in public discourse around defence is limited to one-way communications, either through announcements, speeches or conferences. As discussed above, the Government symbolically reveal annual budgets through the Parliament, without divulging details. For example, during the Special Operations Forces Exhibition (SOFEX) this year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Friehat, announced the plan to restructure the armed forces over the coming five years [1]. Usually such statements are followed by academic or journalistic analysis and speculations [2]. There is some engagement with academics, however, this relates more to countering terrorism strategies. For instance, in March 2018, the University of Mu’ta signed an agreement with the armed forces to collaborate on convening an MA program around countering terrorism strategies [3]. This does not necessarily reflect much engagement but showcases one-way communication.

There are regular discussions about issues of defence between journalists, academics, lawmakers and CSOs, officials, journalists and activists said (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 9 and 10). These debates are often intense and in-depth.

Local journalists (9 and 10) say that the discussions of these issues multiplied after the Qatar-Saudi crisis erupted in June 2017, as it drew attention to the increased possibility of having another armed conflict in the Gulf (7). Some activists (3, 4 and 5) online, they said, began praising the government’s decision to buy more arms, arguing that Kuwait should begin investing more in its armed forces since Saudi Arabia appears to more willing to use force to settle its disagreements with other states, seeing how it behaved with Yemen and Qatar.

The discussions also increased in frequency after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011, which raised awareness of political and corruption issues across the region (8), and following the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran after Donald Trump came to power and took punitive actions against the latter (11).

It is important to note that one of Kuwait’s most important defense issues — its border dispute with Saudi Arabia over lucrative oil fields — doesn’t get much media attention, and that journalists and all political actors all know that the issue is sensitive to the Emir, who does not want to add anger to already difficult negotiations with a powerful neighbor (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10).

The Government occasionally issues statements about topics that are being widely discussed but they do not have much meaningful information and they usually just announce that they had held meetings with foreign officials or that they will take some vague measure to address the issue, without elaboration. It is a one-way communication, according to journalists and activists (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). They ignore questions from the public, posed online, the media and activists routinely.

The Parliament would normally be more vocal and try to pressure the Government into responding but lawmakers have been noticeably less critical since the authorities dissolved the previous Parliament and revoked the citizenships of a group of opposition figures, they added.

Outside the government, there is an occasional debate on defence issues, but they are superficial. As indicated in Q3, CSOs showed lack of interest for national defence strategy debates during the national dialogue sessions (2008-2012) (1). However, at the think tank level, research centres such as KAS, MEIRSS, and CMEC have engaged in defence issue. For example, KAS and MEIRSS hosted a closed round table to discuss the future of Lebanon’s National Defense Strategy (2). The Carnegie Middle East Center has a Civil-Military Relations in the Arab States (CMRAS) program, that looks into the Arab defence sector, including Lebanon (3). Human Rights organizations like HRW also address key issues related to the LAF that impact an individual’s human rights, such as the Military Judicial System (4). Furthermore, while it is superficial or brief, there are cases of politicians and journalists discussing LAF issues on TV and through published articles (5). Indeed, journalists do “report” on weapons delivered by foreign countries or the increase of women’s integration in the LAF. However, they are do not engage in an in-depth discussion with a nuanced approach critically assessing the added value of LAF capability development vis-a-vis the weapons being delivered (or the what does female integration mean to the greater structure of the LAF). Furthermore, the reporting on the military council’s appointment recently was focused on the sectarian aspect and political parties’ backing, not the functions of the council or what it means as a body inside the LAF. Reports are occasional depending on the urgency or timeliness of the defence-related events.

On defence-related issues, the government supplies the public with limited information. The Supreme Defence Council, following the National Defence Law, does not disclose the decisions made in council (1). Instead, it releases press statements, that briefly indicate the main topics discussed without taking any questions from the press (2).

Given the country’s long-running security crisis and the capitulation of the Malian armed forces in 2012, defence remains a hot topic in the media and civil society. The Bertelsmann Stiftung report notes that Mali’s dynamic CSOs and community-based activists are continuing to emphasise the need for military reform and greater discipline, as well as for accountable governance, in light of the ongoing security threats. Nevertheless, it concludes that issues discussed by citizens or championed by civil society organisations are not necessarily included in the political agenda. The ongoing presence of international actors such as MINUSMA, EUTM, EUCAP Sahel, Barkhane etc. also mean that there are frequent conferences, policy debates and discussions in Bamako about defence and security matters. These involve CSOs, academics, military figures and journalists. A Malian journalist said that defence matters are widely reported on in the media like any other subject, although he noted that the general understanding of defence policies among the wider population is limited.⁷

As part of the ‘Accord Pour la Paix et la Reconciliation au Mali’, the government has created local consultative security committees to discuss the security challenges in their respective regions and to make recommendations to the executive. Each committee comprises representatives from religious associations, civil society groups, women’s groups, youth organisations and traditional leaders.
In March 2017, the government organised a large conference to discuss how the country should ensure peace, unity and reconciliation, following on from the Algiers peace agreement. The conference involved participants from trade unions, religious associations, the armed forces, the police, civil society groups, women’s groups, youth organisations, the private sector, local development organisations, groups working with refugees and traditional leaders.
Smaller forums have either taken place or are planned in Mopti, Kidal, and other parts of the country to discuss how the country will overcome the current insecurity.
However, the government’s engagement is irregular and its willingness to discuss defence matters with the media at press conferences is often limited as many subjects are deemed too sensitive.⁵ The government liberally deploys the ‘secret défense’ argument to avoid discussing controversial issues, according to one newspaper editor in Bamako.⁵
For instance, the current Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga has yet to publicly explain why, when he was Defence Minister, he signed off several excessively priced defence purchases. The contracts were so unjustifiable that the government subsequently cancelled them when details of the deals became publicly known.⁶ ⁷
Similarly, the government has yet to explain why the purchase of the Super Tocano planes has been delayed.⁸ They were supposed to be delivered in mid-2017, but as of May 2018, FAMa has yet to receive them. The government originally signed a contract for six aircraft, but reports now indicate that only four will be delivered. Again, the government has not explained why and how this order was revised.⁸ As one security expert working in Bamako says, the government’s voice in defence debates “could be louder”.¹⁰
By contrast, the current defence minister, Tiena Coulibaly has shown a willingness to respond to questions on sensitive subjects in media briefings. In April 2018, Coulibaly fielded questions on the alleged killing of 14 civilians after a Malian soldier had been shot and wounded by suspected jihadists.⁹ Coulibaly did not shed much light on the affair, but it does show that ministers are willing to occasionally engage with the press on sensitive matters.

– No evidence of a regular, active and public debate on issues of defence among academics was found (1)(2)(3)(4)
– No evidence of a regular, active and public debate on issues of defence among opinion-shapers was found (5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(13).
– No evidence of a regular, active and public debate on issues of defence among CSOs was found (14)(15)(16)

Furthermore, an interviewee working for a recognised local NGO investigating issues of corruption in Morocco stated that the organisation « did not have any data on Moroccan armed forces » and that « manipulation of information was so prominent » that the organization preferred not to work on defence issues.(17) The lack of easily-accessible, relevant, accurate and in-depth information pertaining to defence issues reinforces this position.

No evidence of government engagement in public discourse about defence issues was found, as reported by:

– the press (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)
– CSOs (10)(11)(12)
– the Moroccan government and parliament (13)(14)(15)(16)
– Academics (17)(18)(19)(20)

Outside of government, there is evidence of public debate on security and defence issues. It is brought up by civil society, journalists and academics. Various institutions represent the latter: Abdou Moumouni University, Human Science Research Institute, University of Diffa and Laboratory for Studies and Research on Social Dynamics and Local Development. Even though public debate among academics is not regular, in some cases, it may reveal in-depth discussion. For example, the University of Diffa, a city located more than 1,300 km east of Niamey and affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, organised in November 2015 (1) and in May 2017 two international conferences related to peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin. The last conference covered deradicalisation and the reintegration of demobilised Boko Haram militants. More than a hundred of participants attended, including academics, civil society leaders, government, local authorities, religious authorities as well as international experts, and proposed recommendations to authorities regarding security policy for the Diffa region and the Lake Chad basin (2). Civil society organisations also partake in the debate concerning defence and security. For example, every year, Espace Citoyenne organises a forum “Session Budgétaire Citoyenne” to discuss the upcoming financial law, with defence and security budget being also debated (4). However, even if in some cases the debate addresses issues through in-depth discussion, such activities are not consistent. 

Government tends to engage in discussions with the public on defence issues through open forums and media briefings. For example, in December 2017 the National Center for Strategic and Security Studies (CNESS) organized the national forum for security and defence to reflect on the new Security and defence policy/Politique nationale de sécurité et défense (PNSD), which will be adopted in 2018 (1). According to local media, it was the first forum of this kind because it included representatives from the government, defence and security forces, but also political parties as well as representatives from the “different social sectors of the country” (1). In line with this initiative, in January 2017, there was an inauguration of the National Observatory on Security Governance. A security official from the Ministry of Interior attended the launch ceremony (2). Therefore, there is evidence of debate and a stable trend to government engagement in public discourse. However, sensitive issues are not discussed in-depth. For example, the tendency of authorities to cooperate with non-state armed groups, such as Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies, GATIA, and the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad, MSA) on Mali-Niger border (3).

Because of the underfunding and poor training of the Nigerian Police Force and the weakness of the internal security structure, there is an increasing reliance on the Nigerian army to provide internal security. The Nigerian Army has been deployed on internal security duties in virtually every state of the Federation (1). This has increased the public debate about defence issues in the country given the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, Delta militant activities in the South South and South East, the herdsmen-farmer conflict in the Middlebelt, and kidnapping and high crime in other states (2). This, in turn, has led to an increase in public debate in the media about defence issues in the country (3).

The vast majority of civil society debate remains superficial as a result of a lack of access to actual defence policy documentation and plans. There is a need for greater transparency from the Nigerian Military to help provide higher-quality engagement and public debate (4), (5).

The government does engage in public debates mainly in a defensive manner to rebut allegations raised by the media and CSOs. There are some media briefings by members of the government about operational issues where public awareness is important (1).

The Nigerian military’s spokespeople have become far more visible in recent years, especially on social media, which is undoubtedly a positive step (2), (3), (4). However, they remain too defensive and reactive in their approach, skipping hard questions and preferring instead to highlight ‘good news’ stories (5).

There is no public debate on issues related to the defence sector. This includes academics, journalists, and NGOs. The only available information is usually from news outlets (1), (2). No debate is found across media outlets (3), (4), (5), on defence or corruption in the defence sector. As stated above, the Oman News Agency informs media reports on any issues relating to the defence which are published and the media landscape in the country is controlled by the state (6). No work by academics was found relating to defence debates. Public information available concerning defence is limited to descriptive accounts of an event, treaty or decision. Civil Society Organisations, as outlined in Q4, are constrained by government approval.

The government does not engage in any public discussion or debate about defence or security sector. It tries to hinder and stop such discussions (4,5). The Business Anti-Corruption Portal states: “Omani laws do not provide for public access to information” (1). However, official communications via the Oman News Agency inform public around certain defence positions as outlined in Q3 (2). Moreover, the defence ministry’s website references some public visits from foreign defence ministers (3). Notably, no information available to the public contains any meaningful information or details about defence decisions.

Some discussion occurs when a persistent problem re-occurs such as security campaign against wanted persons (attempts to arrest wanted persons who carry illegal weapons inside camps) or when unlawful practices arise by the security and military agencies such as in recruitment or using of governmental cars for personal use (1).

There have been conferences held in Palestine and attended by academics and senior leaders of the Palestinian security forces (2). Many issues related to the work of the security forces are discussed by different sectors of society and the process of reviewing and responding to the weaknesses observed from these discussions are conducted by the security forces (3).

There is no continuous engagement or public consultation or justification concerning defence issues or other public issues (1), (2). Although not regular or systematic in any way, there are occasions when the PA security officials are challenged by the public. There are reports written by institutions like, DCAF, HRW, Amnesty or Al-Haq, which highlight some demands of the security forces that reach the desks of chief officers. However, this is very ad hoc and not systematic (3).

Representatives from the security forces at various levels irregularly participate in events organized by civil society institutions and research centres (4).

Outside of government, there is occasional public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. [1] Any debate addresses issues superficially, rather than persisting through in-depth and regular discussion. [2] For example, on March 26, 2018, the Department of International Affairs at the University of Qatar organised a forum to discuss the national security strategy in light of regional and international changes. The forum also discussed the accumulation of military power, building strong defence alliances, maintaining cohesion of the political system, promoting values of political participation, strengthening the role of public diplomacy in building national characteristics, achieving food security and increasing the competitiveness of the national economy. [3] Another example is a research paper discussing Qatar’s defence policy and analysing Qatar’s defence plans. The paper looks at military partnerships, military procurement, military bases and Qatar’s own position within the region and the overall global context. Those examples do not include any thorough academic analysis of Qatar’s defence policy and strategy. The policy paper lacks qualitative analysis as it only focuses on quantitative indicators, making it very descriptive. [4]

In relation to the Government’s engagement in public discourse, communication is likely to be one-way, as officials may provide some information but may not answer public questions. [1,2] For example, there has been public commentary on Qatar’s Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMEX). This year’s conference marked its tenth anniversary, where people come together to offer a ‘A world-class platform for Technology, Maritime & Defence Industry Capabilities’ [3]. In addition to that, some media platforms may occasionally discuss Qatar’s security and defence issues but only very briefly. For example, one news agency reported on Qatar’s deals after the DIMEX conference [4]. In addition to DIMEX, Qatar holds the annual International Milipol conference in Doha, which addresses issues related to homeland security and civil defence [5,6]. In addition, Qatari officials sporadically mention arms deals and defence plans to media outlets. None of the above examples represent a public debate; they are more in the form of one-way communications with the public.

In general, there is limited space for open and frank debate about government policies in Saudi Arabia, especially in the areas of defence and security, which are traditionally viewed as the government’s domain. The perception among some prominent Saudi journalists is that this space has narrowed even further after the accession of Mohammed bin Salman to senior posts including minister of defence in January 2015, and increasingly since his further consolidation of power after being named crown prince in June 2017 (1).

According to our sources, there is very limited, if any, debate about the defence and security sectors. It is taboo to write critically about the army and defence sector in general, particularly concerning reform, and the war in Yemen. The debate in Saudi Arabia is limited and self-censored (2), (3).

For example, in July 2015, a Pakistani commentator and veteran of the Soviet-Afghan war was jailed in Saudi Arabia and reportedly sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes for allegedly criticizing the Saudi government’s military campaign in Yemen while on a religious pilgrimage in the country (4), (5). More recently, in February 2018, Saudi authorities sentenced human rights activists Issa al-Nukheifi to six years in prison over tweets she posted that were also critical of the government’s intervention in Yemen (6).

Specialized local research centres, like the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS) in Riyadh, do broach issues including local domestic threats such as Islamic radicalism; however, they stop short of openly discussing Saudi defence policy (7).

According to our sources, the government sometimes discusses publicly in a one-way channel some issues related to the defence sector. However, this discussion is superficial and does not go deep into the issues or discuss in detail in a way that informs the public (1), (2).
The government does occasionally discuss matters related to its defence policy, for example, it announced early last year in March 2018 of plans to build and expand its local defence industry, which was covered by local and international news outlets (3), (4), (5). However, such communications are irregular and certainly one-way and are not comparable to a public dialogue or two-way engagement.

According to our sources, the debate and deliberations are only restricted to specific groups of people such as academics, activists and NGOs. These debates are usually superficial. That is because there is a lack of data and expertise in the issue of defence in the country(1,2). Defence issues are occasionally publicly debated with workshops organised by civil society about issues such as crisis communication, challenges to the elaboration of a national defence and security policy in Tunisia, and national strategy against terrorism (3,4). Additionally, defence issues are regularly reported in media reports covering a wide range of issues such as arms purchases (5)and fighting terrorism (6).

According to our sources, the MoD and armed forces in Tunis engage in irregular debates with certain NGOs and groups of people. Sometimes, the MoD engage the general public in an irregular debate on issues related to the defence sector through a public statement(1,2). The Ministry of Defence has a website (3) in which some of its activities are published. The Ministry has a spokesman (4). The Minister of Defence and High Officials appear occasionally in media shows and the Ministry of Defence issues media briefs related to a wide range of subjects such as conscription (5) military operations (6) and deep deployment of troops. (7)

There is a complete absence of any public debate on defence issues in the UAE. There is a very limited debate on socio-political issues, but nothing on defence issues (1), (2).

There is no evidence of government engagement in public discourse about defence issues. According to our sources, engagement in public discourse when it come to defence issues is not on the agenda of the government (1), (2), (3).

Country Sort by Country 6a. Public debate Sort By Subindicator 6b. Government engagement in public discourse Sort By Subindicator
Algeria 25 / 100 25 / 100
Angola 0 / 100 25 / 100
Burkina Faso 50 / 100 0 / 100
Cameroon 25 / 100 25 / 100
Cote d'Ivoire 50 / 100 50 / 100
Egypt 0 / 100 25 / 100
Ghana 25 / 100 50 / 100
Jordan 25 / 100 25 / 100
Kuwait 50 / 100 25 / 100
Lebanon 50 / 100 25 / 100
Mali 100 / 100 75 / 100
Morocco 0 / 100 0 / 100
Niger 50 / 100 50 / 100
Nigeria 50 / 100 25 / 100
Oman 0 / 100 0 / 100
Palestine 75 / 100 50 / 100
Qatar 25 / 100 25 / 100
Saudi Arabia 0 / 100 25 / 100
Tunisia 25 / 100 50 / 100
United Arab Emirates 0 / 100 0 / 100

With thanks for support from the UK Department for International Development and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have contributed to the Government Defence Integrity Index.

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