Skip to sidebar Skip to main


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: 0/100

Assessor Explanation

Assessor Sources

6b. Government engagement in public discourse


SCORE: 25/100

Assessor Explanation

Assessor Sources

Compare scores by country

Please view this page on a larger screen for the full stats.

Relevant comparisons

There is no systematic or active public debate on issues of defence in Albania. There are a few CSOs that engage in defence and security issues, they have tried to develop a dialogue, but these efforts have not produced a sustained dialogue; rather it is a one-sided effort from the CSOs.
Given that Albania has been a NATO candidate and member since 2009, the focus of the projects and activities organized by CSOs on defence has, for the most part, been linked with NATO integration and membership processes [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].
A few projects focus on other areas such as gender in defence, oversight of the defence sector, financial integrity, or soldiers’ welfare, strategic thinking [12, 13, 14, 15]. As evident from the information on the projects developed by the main organisations that are engaged in defence-related projects, these projects are entirely financed by foreign donors.

The typical way the MoD contributes to activities organized by CSOs is by delivering keynote speeches and ensuring that events organised are attended by MoD officials [1, 2, 3].
Overall there is a lack of evidence of any programmatic and proactive approach from the MoD in its engagement with CSOs. Moreover, there is a dominant opinion among the MoD establishment, particularly over the last two to three years where the MoD has become even more reserved in its interactions with CSOs, that there can be no benefits for the MoD from the interactions with CSOs [4]. However, the MoD has been receptive to allowing researchers to conduct interviews, but this type of interaction has been very limited as not so much field research is conducted that involved the armed forces [2].

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).

Beyond the government, there is occasionally a public debate on defence issues among academics, journalists, opinion makers, and CSOs. However, in cases where such debate takes place, high priority issues are discussed, with intensity and in a profound way. It is worth highlighting the role of organizations such as CARI, RESDAL, and CELS, which discuss issues related to defence and security in a more habitual way. In the CARI, for example, there were 9 meetings directly related to the subject between January 2016 and February 2019. [1] Although RESDAL does not record events from 2016 onwards regarding the subject on its website, its work around these issues in Latin America is recognised, especially through the publication of the Comparative Atlas of Defence in Latin America and the Caribbean. [2] In the case of CELS, it has produced reports on the subject. [3] Also in the “Nueva Mayoría” portal, directed by Rosendo Fraga, there is a space for debate on defence and security. [4] Some media outlets have felt the need to foster public debate in the face of events such as the ARA and the modifications introduced by Decree 683/18 and DPDN 2018. In this regard, Gustavo Gorriz director of DEFONLINE points out that they have been trying for several years to bring the issues of deterioration, low budgets, and lack of professional direction within the defence area into the public agenda, with little success. [5] It should be noted that there has been little development with regard to the training of civilian professionals in the area of security and defence. This may be a challenge when it comes to generating more debate around the subject. Examples of this are: the specialisation in defence management of UNTREF and the programmes of the University of Defence. [6]

The Government has participated in the debate on defence issues, especially during 2017 and 2018, mainly through the media, including television programmes, radio, and interviews for graphic media. These often do not involve a mass audience, such as interviews with the Minister of Defence [1] and the President’s statement on the reform of the national defence system. [2] [3] In the same vein, press conferences by defence authorities mostly related to the sinking of the ARA San Juan submarine. [4] There is the participation of officials in seminars and conferences within the framework of the University of Defense (UNDEF), which occurs openly to the public and generates the possibility of interaction. [5] Beyond the debate that has been generated in the press and academia regarding the changes in the functions of the Armed Forces, for example, by Decree 683/2018, some media sources have highlighted the absence of a previous debate involving government personalities, Parliament, or the wider public with regard to the definition of these new policies. [6] The debate, as seen in the conference organised by UNDEF, [7] is subsequent to what has already been defined by the Executive and officials from the defence jurisdiction who participated in this case, such as the General Auditor of the Armed Forces and the Legal Assistant Secretary and Institutional Art of the Ministry of Defence. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a single online public consultation mechanism registered on the website of the Ministry of Defense in May 2018, called the “Open Files in the process of change towards an Open Government,” which resulted in an increased demand for the declassification and public access of classified historical documents. [8] In 2017, the Third Sector compiled themes and projects that CSOs felt should be prioritised by the National Congress, including: poverty, gender, childhood, education, health, employment, security, housing, and the environment. [9]

Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center periodically brings defence-related issues to public attention. A penal of experts gather to discuss issues within the defence sector and initiate a public discussion. Besides, publications are released on urgent defence-related issues, such as procurement in the defence sector, corruption risk assessment in the defence sector, etc. [1].
The Caucasus Institute regularly organizes different types of events (annual conferences, round tables, seminars) to engage the public in discussions on defence and security issues in the country and regionally. The Caucasus Institute also publishes yearbooks, policy briefs, and other documents, with contributions on peace and security both domestically and globally [2]. The Regional Study Center is a think tank that regularly contributes to the defence-related debate through publications, expert opinions, events and projects in military and security issues [3]. The Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly-Vanadzor refers to human rights violations in the defence sector. They actively engage in any public discussion that involves the defence sector, trying to discuss issues in defence sector administration [4].

The government periodically organizes public debates and discussions on defence-related issues. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) initiated a range of discussions to present new program initiatives and have the feedback by different groups. Once there are new projects or defence-related investigations that are public, discussions are had to share the vision and provide feedback [1, 2, 3]. The parliament also initiates public hearings and discussion on defence-related issues with the participation of civil society organizations (CSOs), academia and other interested parties on issues that are not state or official secrets [4, 5, 6]. However, CSO representatives do not consider those meetings effective, as feedback is not always taken into consideration when developing final documents [7].

The public debate around Australian defence issues is robust, regular, and active. The topics publicly discussed are wide-ranging, they are discussed in depth, and the debate elicits comments from a variety of sources. The future submarines program, the planned acquisition of 12 new submarines by the Australian Navy by 2050 announced in the Defence White Paper 2016, is a good example. Commentators from academia [1], think-tanks [2], former defence officials [3], opposition members of parliament [4], and the public at large [5] have provided public input. The Australian National University Strategic and Defence Studies Centre [6] and University of New South Wales Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society [7], among others, provide high-quality and impartial academic inputs. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute [8] and Lowy Institute [9] are internationally respected think tanks [10] that investigate and debate foreign policy and defence issues. The media is also actively involved, with politicians and opinion-makers writing opinion pieces [11] and dedicated defence correspondents on television news [12] and writing for newspapers [13]. A number of interest groups, community groups, and civil society organisations also make public comments, including in formal consultations on the Defence White Paper 2016 [14].

The government engages actively in debates on issues of defence, through regular engagement with the media, civil society, think tanks, and academia. Department of Defence officials are regular attendees at events organised by think tanks [1] and civil society organisations [2] with topics relevant to the public discourse. The Department also has a media service [3] and the Minister of Defence [4] and other high-ranking officials [5] regularly deliver and publish speeches, though generally avoiding controversial topics. The official Australian Defence College publishes academic work from Department personnel in the Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies [6] (until 2018 the official publication was called the Australian Defence Force Journal [7]). Officials also regularly attend press conferences [8].

There are very few debates and active discussions on military issues in Azerbaijan since 2014. In September 2014, President Ilham Aliyev issued a decree on some security measures on the contact line between the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia (1). That decree and subsequent decisions have seriously restricted the media’s ability to investigate what happened in the army. One expert, interviewed for this research, said that an unofficial ban on public debate on army issues has been made through this decree (2). Additionally, this decree has paralysed the activities of NGOs working on the military sector, and many human rights defenders, analysts and experts on the military have been forced to leave the country. The few military NGOs, military analysts and military lawyers, who remain in the country are under serious pressure and threat, and their activities in the field of human rights protection in the Armed Forces have been restricted. Mass media, journalists and NGO representatives who have been investigating soldiers’ deaths and the current problems in the Armed Forces claim to experience pressure by security forces (3, 4). According to the media, journalist Sakhavat Mammad was arrested for 10 days for writing an article criticising Najmeddin Sadikov, Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces (5).

Discussions with critical experts have been restricted in recent years, and government representatives do not participate in these discussions (1). The Defence Ministry holds meetings and press conferences with the press, but those invited to the meetings are under the control of the authorities (2).
These meetings are propaganda for the government, these press conferences are held to show the power of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia, and to bolster the image of the government for the people. Journalists who come to the event do not ask questions about problems in the army, soldiers’ deaths and corruption. A typical press conference held by Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov on June 20, 2018, highlights this issue (3).

Interviewees indicate that there is occasional debate, yet many are supportive of the government’s actions on issues of defence. Pro-government individuals, journalists or activists usually write in these debates [1, 2]. Sometimes, a few non-critical articles appear [3]. Outside this circle, there is a very limited to non-existent serious public debate on defence issues [1]. For example, Nabeel Rajab was detained and sentenced for five years because he criticised Bahrain’s engagement in Yemen [4].

Interviewees have stated there is no governmental engagement in the public debate with regards to any issues of defence. Defence discussions are considered confidential and cannot be debated with civilians, including citizens [1, 2].

Public debate on defence issues is limited and irregular. Civil administration officials and serving military officers refrain from joining such debate. However, retired military officers, selected CSOs/media and academics participate in debate on strategic issues, organised by strategic think tanks [1].

In 2020, the Bangladesh military came under the media spotlight and became the centre of social media discourse for all the wrong reasons. The killing of retired Army Major Sinha in 2020, allegedly by a police official, sparked public uproar [1]. This created tensions with the military and police administrations, while social media platforms started buzzing with conspiracy theories. As directed by the Prime Minister, both the Army Chief and the Inspector General of Police spoke together at a press conference to assure the public that there would be a proper investigation into the alleged murder [2]. The broadcast of a documentary by Al Jazeera in 2021 on the Army Chief’s alleged involvement in the procurement of unlawful surveillance equipment from Israel sparked another round of public uproar [3]. The Prime Minister, along with the senior ministers and senior leaders of the ruling party, publicly condemned the documentary’s motive, deeming it a conspiracy to undermine the image of the government [4]. The debate has now subsided.

Debates on Defence are largely absent from the public sphere, but this is mainly due to the lack of interest in the topic by a large part of the population. However, public debates between politicians and experts do take place, facilitated by the media, universities and social media [1, 2]. Public debate in a media environment is generally in response to specific events or decision. While it does focus on high priority issues, it risks falling prey to political discussions. Think thanks such as the Royal Higher Institute of Defence equally focus on long-term high priority issues, such as capability procurement or budgeting, and organise activities to engage the public [3].

Government official contact details are made available for the public. The Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence and Belgian Defence actively publish news on their respective websites and social media channels [1, 2]. Representatives of the Government, the Ministry of Defence and to a lesser degree Belgian Defence also participate in open seminars or media briefings. The Royal Higher Institute of Defence organises seminars and meetings on issues relevant to Belgian Defence [3].

There are occasional debates among representatives of academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and civil society organisations (CSOs) about defence issues. When debates occur they only superficially concern the issue of current importance. For example, Radio Sarajevo on May 7, 2018, published an article, “The Council of Ministers prepares measures for migrants: Can the institutions respond to the challenge?” [1], the newspaper Nezavisne novine, published an article titled, “BiH with its military mission cannot go to Europe” [2]. The Centre for Security Studies organized roundtables and conferences regarding issues relating to the defence sector with participation from government institutions, international organizations, NGOs, academia etc. [3, 4]. The same NGO occasionally issues press releases on questions relating to defence issues [5, 6].

There is regular information on the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) website concerning the current activities of the MoD and its management and they appear in form of the one-way information without any opportunity for civil societies and opinion formers to provide their feedbacks [1]. For example, on February 14, 2018, the MoD in cooperation with the Centre for Security Studies organized a round table, “Improving Public Procurement of Defence-Security Bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina” [2].

Generally, there is debate around Defence issues but in most cases, it is around budget allocations, recruitment, and in some instances, the corruption that may have been reported in the media [1]. The debate around systemic issues within the Botswana Defence Forces is not discussed in public [1]. From the only authentic document on the envisaged Defence Policy, it noted that at the inaugural meeting in September 2007 on the Defence Policy, resolved that the process would be covered under seven stages: Strategic Environment Assessment; Threat Assessment; Institutional Framework; Gap Analysis; Institutional Policy Framework; Implementation; and Monitoring & Evaluation. Although these groups were drawn from the security sector departments, it did not necessarily mean that all were conversant with the nature of the work at hand [2]. Therefore, this called for some work-in-progress training by the Head of the Secretariat to bring the members of the Secretariat to an appreciable degree of comprehension in terms of the concept, research and drafting of documents. This is for subsequent presentation to the Working Group, who in turn, would make submissions to the Steering Group for thorough scrutiny before approval [2]. These consultations exclude the public.

There is no government debate with the public on Defence issues. As highlighted in 6A, Defence issues are talked about as a result of media reports [1]. This revolves around the Defence budget and in some cases, on issues of procurement that will be advertised by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board [2]. The government does not engage with the public on these issues.

There is a high variation in participation among academia, the media, and CSOs regarding defence issues. The media is still distant from the debate, as the news searches show: for the Folha de São Paulo, one of the most read newspapers of Brazil, between 2016 and 2019 there are only four mentions of the National Defence Policy, and seven mentions of the National Defence Strategy and zero mentions to the White Book on Defence [1]. However, the defence topic is rising in academia, both within and without the military war colleges. According to primary data collected by an interviewee [2], since 2008, 13 graduate programs solely focused on national defence received credentials from the Brazilian Ministry of Education. Among them, six are in military war colleges, but all of them have civilian students. There was an extensive debate regarding the Federal Intervention – undertaken by the Army – both in civil society (with the creation of a Civilian Observatory of the Federal Intervention in Rio’s public security) [3] and within the military graduate programs, especially by the Military Observatory of Praia Vermelha [4]. There are many depth levels of discussion, but the assessor finds many of them to be highly relevant for the debate of strategic defence issues of the country.

In Brazil, only the presidency often uses media briefings to communicate with civil society. The most common means ministers use to communicate with civil society is through pronouncements, which are available on the website of the Ministry of Defence [1]. There are some important seminars that are co-organized with independent think-tanks, such as the Copacabana Fortress Conference, held once a year in Rio de Janeiro. The conference is organized by Centro Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais (CEBRI), a think tank funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and counts with many civilian and military lecturers [2]. The Ministry of Defence and single branches of the armed forces have a good amount of information in their websites [3, 4, 5, 6], especially because of the Freedom of Information ‘active’ transparency requirements [7]. The 2016 Review of Brazil’s Defence Policies was also subject of public consultation [8]; nevertheless, the consultation was poorly communicated to the general public (there is only one mention to it in a specialized newspaper [9]), with very few comments from citizens. In fact, aside from the example cited above, there are few substative engagements with civil society in general and the government has actively sought to undermine civilian engagement in military affairs and has even promoted the militarisation of civilian functions [10].

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].

The Department of National Defence (DND) funds a range of research projects that look at defence, and the results of these projects are made public, frequently via DND interactions and promotions. Think tanks funded in part by the government hold both professional and graduate student conferences on defence and security issues that are attended by, and feature participation from, senior civilian and military DND officials. [1] [3] However, broad public engagment is much less common than in niche academic or industry circles, and debate is usually concerned with high visibility issues rather than more substantial but less publicised issues. As Project Ploughshares notes, discussion is most often about procurement, rather than about actual threats to security for Canadians or elsewhere in the world. [2] There are also many different research institutes/centres at Canadian academic institutions that focus on defence and security and have received funding from the DND.

The 2017 National Security Act established the National Security Transparency Commitment, which charges the DND and other agencies related to security with providing information transparency, executive transparency, and policy transparency. [1] While the previous national defence strategy, Canada First, mandated the creation of a Defence Analytics Institute to provide public facts and analysis about defence procurement, the new government did not implement this aspect of the previous policy plan. Information conveyed via speakers, websites, and press releases tends to be one way communication, with little substantial dialogue or response to criticisms or queries from outside government. [2]

Outside of state agencies, the public debate on defence and security issues has been discontinuous and shaped by specific controversies, namely: the controversy between Chile and Bolivia and the lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and the debate on the misuse of resources from the Restricted Law of Copper. The most relevant think tanks (Libertad y Desarrollo, CEP, Espacio Público, Chile 21, CIEPLAN) do not have an area of study dedicated to policy and security defence. When it occurs, the debate has been influenced by a plurality of perspectives [1, 2, 3, 4], but lengthy, depth studies and analysis on these issues are largely absent. In general, the debate arises once corruption scandals appear in the media and pervade public opinion, but the process is contingent and not permanent.

The instances of government engagement in public discourse show the continuation of the traditional culture of low public engagement in the strategic planning of defence [1]. Government involvement has been mostly defined and coordinated by the Ministerio de Defensa Nacional (MDN). The Exempt Resolution [2] established four channels of public participation in defence and security issues: (a) access to relevant public information, (b) the annual participatory public account, (c) public consultation, and (d) the Civil Society Council (COSOC). However, the notion of a regular and coordinated system for the public debate of defence and security issues is still absent. The MDN, in conjunction with the COSOC, the National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies (ANEPE), and the Center of Human Rights of the University of Chile, has organised participative seminars on human security, but these instances work in an isolated and discontinuous way.

There is regular debate on issues of defence outside the government and the military establishment, involving researchers and think tanks, journalists and the public in online forums [1,2]. However, issues of defence are regarded politically sensitive and, as such, are not discussed in a critical manner. Media and think tanks in China are all state-controlled, which means that the government’s decisions on issues of defence are always presented in a positive light. In online social networks, criticism occasionally emerges, often echoing nationalistic views that call for a more aggressive stance on issues of national defence [3,4]. Still, according to a recent report, China scores very low in terms of internet freedom (Freedom house, 2019) [5] while its security apparatus has increased capacity for blocking and censoring material and persecuting users and bloggers [6,7]. Public debate on any politically sensitive issue in China only reaches a superficial form of discussion.

The Chinese Ministry of Defence holds regular press conferences and publishes White papers to communicate its position on varous issues of defence. [1,2] The MoD has upgraded its online infrastructure in recent years, providing more information on defence issues and archiving press conferences. [3] Press conferences include questions by journalists which the government spokesperson answers at well. There have been many instances of foreign journalists being expelled because of their investigative reporting on politically sensitive issues. [4,5,6,7] There are also cases of alleged corruption, especially by relatives of political leaders as well as human rights violations. In addition, the 2019 World Press freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders places China in position 177 out of 180 countries. RWB notes that, in 2019, there were 60 journalists and bloggers being detained by Chinese authorities. [8]

There is regular public debate on advocacy issues amongst academics, journalists, opinion-makers and social organisations. After the signing of the Peace Agreement, discussions around the security and defence of the territory have focused on the issues of transformation and on new challenges presented by the Military Forces post-conflict. These concerns are reflected in various forums, seminars, and meetings held by public and private universities, and by renowned national newspapers. [1, 2, 3] The issues that are developed in these public fora are more focused on the publication of complaints around military actions that violate human rights, the tracking of public security and defence policy of the government of Iván Duque, and follow-up on investigations of illegal armed groups and the Colombian State in the development of military actions, among other issues related to post-conflict, including Peace Agreements and the guarantee of human rights. These often cite organisations such as the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, the Rainbow Foundation, the Ideas for Peace Foundation, CINEP, and Prodepaz Network. In the press we find the Empty Chair (La Silla Vacía), Public Reason (Razón Pública) and Open Truth (Verdad Abierta), [4] spaces that are open for debate, in which analyses are built through the collaboration of academics, social leaders, and other representatives of civil society. There are also television programmes from channels Red+ News and Noticias Canal UNO, which host a range of opinion programmes such as To The Point (Al Punto) and Free Zone (Zona Franca); and the Cable News Channel with programmes such as Live Week (Semana en Vivo).

During the presidential term of Iván Duque, spaces for public debate have been promoted through the “Building country” workshops, whose objective is to establish a direct dialogue with the regions of Colombia, listening to their realities, and proposing solutions with public policies. [1] The workshops are held weekly every Saturday in a different municipality in the country, lasting more than 8 hours, and are transmitted through the Canal Institucional website. The workshops are attended by the President, ministers, governors, mayors, as well as members of the community action boards, unions, representatives of civil society, community leaders, and members of Congress from the region. [2] The workshops consist of listening, raising concerns, challenges, and solutions. There is a preparation process prior to the workshops, during which work is done with local actors in working groups on different issues, such as education, justice, health, infrastructure, and victims, among others. The members of each table discuss the problems and propose solutions in order to present them to the President, and are each given three minutes. At the end of the exhibition round, commitments are made, and a pact is signed in which the results of the workshop are collected. Although the workshops constitute a participatory process and direct dialogue with the Executive, some attendees find that the solutions are ignored, and that public officials participate for the sake of participation rather than to enact real change. Additionally, participation by non-organised groups is limited. [3] One of the central themes of these spaces for dialogue is legality, where the law is applied, and citizens feel protected. It also involves the application of justice and the restoration of trust in the State. [3] However, debate about the country’s defence and security policy is not present, and in most cases the issue of security/legality did not lead to any special commitment by the Ministry of Defence. The Minister of Defence’s statements regarding military operations have been characterised as confusing and weak, furthering controversy in the country as it calls into question the suitability of the Minister. However, the President of Colombia and the Parliamentarians belonging to the party in power have always supported the Minister, so acts of summons or subpoenas by Congress in the plenary session have not led to his dismissal. [4, 5] The lack of truthful and timely information on security matters is very serious, given the context of renewed violence in the territories. [6] Important safety issues are thus excluded in the public debate.

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 a sustained and engaged public debate about defence issues. As indicated in Q3, the debate takes place within a variety of forums, venues, outlets and platforms. CSOs, think tanks and research institutions regularly arrange public seminars, debates and conferences on a diverse range of subjects related to defence issues [1, 2, 3, 4]. National newspapers also contribute to this debate, but research indicates that 53% of all articles about defence and security policy are wires from news agenecies [5]. However, a number of smaller media outlets dealing specifically with defence issues have come into existence during the last few years. Podcasts, radio shows and blogs also deal with the defence domain. See a list of examples of the public debate in both printed and online media [6].

The government engages regularly in public debate about defence issues. The Minister of Defence often participates in conferences and seminars organised by think tanks, CSOs and research institutions [1, 2, 3]. Such events are sometimes co-organised by the Ministry/Parliament and a CSO, think tank or the like [6]. The Minister of Defence regularly participates in interviews and writes op-eds in printed media [4, 5, 6, 7]. The Defence Committee arranges conferences with CSOs and research institutions and conducts open public hearings with the participation of the Minster of Defence [8].

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.

Defence issues have historically been considered important for the Estonian public due to its geopolitical location and close proximity to Russia. The defence issues have been in the public eye especially since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. According to a local poll, Estonians thought that there was a high chance of a war starting in Estonia that year. [1] News media reported on defence and security every day at the time. Defence issues are still now extensively covered by the main media outlets. [2] At the same time, civil society is not very active on defence issues. The only NGO tackling this is Korruptsioonivaba Eesti, which is representing Transparency International in Estonia. [3] The media mainly covers current affairs, focusing on NATO in Estonia, Article 5 and new purchases. Military drills and missions always receive high coverage. [4,5,6] There are publications specially dedicated to defence issues, for example Sõdurileht by the Defence Forces. There is also a military scientific publication Sõjateadlane (Estonian Journal of Military Studies) that cooperates with different researchers from Estonia and abroad. [7] However, as interviewees representing civil society and media have pointed out, the public debate in Estonia is very limited and lacks thorough discussions. The media coverage is often focused on particular issues, such as Russia’s or NATO’s activities or major procurements. It rarely touches upon the foundations and guiding principles of the defence policy in Estonia. Thus, a key problem is that security-related debates heavily focus on military security while other areas (except cyber security and energy security) are quite undercovered in these debates [8,9,10,11].

The Ministry of Defence regularly publishes announcements and news on their website. The Ministry of Defence may organise media briefings when a new strategy or plan has been published, but these meetings are quite rare, as pointed out by an interviewee, a journalist and expert in the defence sector. [1] Policymakers meet with academics, journalists and analysts during the Annual Baltic Conference on Defence. [2] Other than that, there is little evidence of the government’s engagement with think tanks and civil society organisations. Since 2001, the Ministry of Defence has organised opinion polls about the public trust towards institutions in the defence sector. They don’t involve any public discussions and the results are usually announced in a press release. [3] Moreover, the Defence Ministry regularly takes part in the annual Opinion Festival, open to the public for listening and engaging in the discussions. There is a special stage dedicated to defence and security issues.
All in all, as stated in the National Defence Development Plan, [5] engaging with the public is one of the priorities for the government even though it does not happen regularly. [4]
The Ministry of Defence regularly publishes announcements and news on their website. Every Thursday, the government holds press briefings for journalists where the Minister of Defence also takes part in case a relevant defence issue has arisen during the past week. [6]

Public discussion on defence matters intensifies, when e.g. the Government’s Defence Report is published, major procurement projects or structural reorgnisations are on the way, or some events impact the international security environment. All of the aforementioned stakeholders attend the debate. There are a number of journalists, social media commentors, bloggers, academics/analysts and CSOs who also manage to keep defence related issues in the public discussion on a more continuous basis. [1]

The Government attends events more likely than co-organises them. The Ministries have their websites on which information is shared rather widely and the Ministers as well as Ministry experts attend public seminars, panel discussions and conferences – one of such discussion fora is the annual Suomi Areena organised in Pori in July [1]. The President of the Republic organises annually a two-day foreign and security policy forum, “Kultarantakeskustelut” [Kultaranta Talks], to which participants are invited and which are not open to the public. Yet, some of the sessions are broadcasted online and on television / radio. [2]

Traditionally, there are few occasions for public debate on defence issues. Those that are held – conferences (open to the public), symposiums, seminars – are mostly organized by think tanks such as FRS, [1] IFRI, [2] IRIS. [3] These think tanks tackling defence issues and organising public debates present themselves as independent, though most of them have former high-ranking officers of the army or former employees of the Ministry of Defence on their board.

For instance, FRS’ board [4] Vice-President, Benoît d’Aboville, is a former French permanent representative and ambassador to NATO and member of the « Commission du Livre Blanc sur la Defense et la Securité 2007-2008 » [Commission for the White Paper on Defence and Security 2007-2008]. The board also includes a representative of the Ministry of Defence, as well as one from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and members representing French arms manufacturing companies (Thales, MBDA, Dassault Aviation, Safran, Airbus).
Another example is François Heisbourg, [5] ex-director of FRS, and special council to the President. He is a former employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who was then a technical advisor to the Minister of Defence, then worked for the arms industry (Thompson-CSF and Matra), and led several interministerial missions on Defence issues.
IRIS’ board President, Alain Richard, [6] is a former minister of the Armed Forces. IFRI’s board does not show any member in direct link with the ministry of Defence or the arms industry.

These think tanks do organise public debates about defence issues, though not on a regular basis. The public generally lacks interest in defence issues and is not used to being involved in discussions about defence issues, so these public debates tend to host mostly experts in the sector: military personnel, researchers, specialised journalists, CSOs, officials of the Ministry of Armed Forces.

However, in the past few years, given the renewed number of external operations (OPEX) undertaken by the French army (in CAR, Mali, etc), debate in the public sphere has occurred more often than it used to. Lately, an NGO investigated the use of French arms sold to Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Their work received wide media coverage and sparked important debates around the question of freedom of the press and « Secret-Défense ». [7]

Channels of communication exist: the Ministry of Defence holds a media briefing every Thursday mornings at its headquarters in Paris. [1] The Ministry of the Armed Forces displays an active website, updated on a daily basis, with general information about the state of the French armed forces in the country and those deployed on OPEX. But according to several journalistic experts on defence, [2] these channels mostly work one-way: the Ministry of Defence shares the information it wants to make public, and does not comment on any topic or question that is out of its communication plan, more often than not invoking “secret-défense” to justify the lack of information-sharing.
The Ministry of Armed Forces organises symposiums and conferences about defence issues through its in-house think tank, IRSEM. [3] Though these debates are open to the public, they never attract a lot of public attention or presence, because of the general lack of interest of the public towards defence issues, as well as because of the limited extent of information sharing from the military institution, as confirmed by journalists who have attended these conferences. [2]

There is regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers and CSOs about defence issues and related topics, such as the current corruption scandal within the Federal Ministry of Defence.

There is a great deal of evidence of regular, active public debate about defence issues in Germany. Media attention is generally focussed on current affairs, meaning that topics such as the Defence Policy Guidelines or the Weissbuch (White Paper) are usually only marginal issues (due to the irregular publication of these documents). However, there is a relatively active academic community, which keeps discussions about policy issues alive, especially those regarding the EU and NATO.

Members of the Bundestag, especially leading members of the Defence Committee, are frequently interviewed by the media. When it comes to the executive branch, however, it is almost exclusively the Minister of Defence who participates in public discussions, while the State Secretaries and the Chief of Federal Armed Forces Staff are often not involved. Compared to other large NATO members, Germany has fewer conferences, think tanks and researchers and/or journalists who focus on issues of defence policy. Overall, there is active debate but it is far less institutionalised than in these countries. In particular, there is no evidence of a large number of discussions that are co-organised with independent think tanks or CSOs.

Debates about high priority issues persist over a period of time, as observed in several newspaper articles or other publications, such as academic journal articles, that are available to the public [1,2,3,4,5,6]. In particular, the Spiegel newspaper provides a broad overview of topics related to the German Federal Ministry of Defence [7], while Die Welt has published a series of articles focussing specifically on the ‘Berateraffäre’ corruption scandal within the Federal Ministry of Defence [8].

The government engages in regular debate with academia, opinion-formers and CSOs about defence issues in collaborative ways and co-organises discussions with independent think tanks and civil society organisations, as well as through joint media briefings. The Federal Ministry of Defence provides a portal where users can access current information, press releases and in-depth information on selected topics. For example, if journalists are looking for the appropriate point of contact to answer questions on the Bundeswehr, defence policy issues or Federal Ministry of Defence activities, they can find the required information by navigating to a specific homepage [1]. Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Defence has several spokespeople who are responsible for the various subject areas relating to defence policy and the armed forces.

The Federal Ministry of Defence also meets with representatives of the defence industry for the ‘Strategic Industrial Dialogue’. This form of cooperation is a further development of the ‘Structured Dialogue’, which was previously held with the industry as part of the Armament Agenda. The Federal Ministry of Defence website states: ‘In order to improve the transparency, modernisation and optimisation of the Bundeswehr’s procurement projects, the Ministry of Defence and the BDSV Federal Association of the German Security and Defence Industry agreed at the end of 2014 to meet regularly for top-level and specialist discussions. Since then, issues such as contracting, project management in procurement, operational readiness, sustainability and innovation have been discussed in various expert panels. Concrete recommendations have been developed for modern, optimised and transparent processes in the field of defence, for example, a common risk management policy, which should help the Bundeswehr and the defence industry to plan time frames and budgets for large projects more reliably than before. The Structured Dialogue, which was part of the Armament Agenda, aimed to streamline the entire armaments industry and provide the armed forces with the equipment they needed in the best possible manner with regard to time frame, performance and cost. The purpose of this dialogue was to establish mutual understanding and implement quick and concrete measures in the arms industry’ [2].

Another example is the conference on international humanitarian law in Ettlingen, which is co-organised by the German Red Cross (General Secretariat and DRK regional association Baden-Württemberg) [3] and the BMVg, with support from the central training facility for the administration of justice of the Bundeswehr. The purpose of this annual conference is to provide the members of the judiciary of the Bundeswehr, the Convention Commissioner of the German Red Cross, international law experts and interested guests with a conference and a forum to discuss current international law developments. In addition, the legal department of the BMVg and the lawyers of the Bundeswehr, especially in the field of justice administration, maintain extensive contact and professional exchange with scientific and non-governmental organisations. Some important partners in this context are (though this list is not exhaustive) the German Red Cross, as well as its national associations, and the German Society for Military Law and International Humanitarian Law, in which many lawyers from the Bundeswehr meet with representatives of academia and other legal professions. Furthermore, the BMVg is also a member of the international humanitarian law committee. This provides a framework for discussions and joint events on the legal aspects of security and defence policy. In addition, lawyers regularly attend events organised by institutions outside the Bundeswehr (e.g., the German Judicial Academy, the Federal Academy for Security Policy, universities) as lecturers. For members of the civil justice system, the Bundeswehr (Inner Leadership Centre) also organises its own information events on issues related to military law.

Further exchange with civil society takes place in the form of the internships and trainee positions offered by the legal departments of the BMVg and the Bundeswehr to young lawyers, who then gain an insight into legal work in the military field. The BMVg also maintains its own colleges and universities, as well as an education centre, which are all well connected with academics and researchers outside of the BMVg’s departments. There are regional, national and international partnerships focussing on various specialist areas. The BMVg engages in scientific and public debate on security issues with the Center for Military History and Social Sciences. The scientific research work carried out there directly contributes to the information addressed in the debate.

The Bundeswehr also has its own think tank in the form of the German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies (GIDS). The GIDS examines problems and phenomena that are decisive for Germany’s security policy strategy and thus creates the basis for advising decision-makers in the Bundeswehr and the Federal Government. The GIDS has a growing international scientific network and, at the same time, is building up a well-organised system of knowledge management that aims to make studies, theses and other results of the research and teaching in the GIDS accessible to science and the public.

Engagement in European policy:
The Department of Politics regularly participates in discussions about security and defence policy issues relating to the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union (CSDP), at the level of both head of unit and spokesperson. This includes participation in events organised by CSOs, universities and think tanks, such as the German Society for Foreign Policy, the Science and Politics Foundation, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the German Atlantic Society, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and many more. Plans are currently underway for different event formats, which may be organised together or through think tanks and foundations. Due to the current planning status, detailed information cannot yet be provided.

Engagement in dialogue with society:
The Department of Politics maintains contact with a wide range of academics, independent think tanks and CSOs and conducts ‘security policy dialogues’ in various forms. In addition to classic security policy topics, these dialogues also address current issues that relate to aspects of security policy, such as the topic of digitisation and ethical questions with regard to military use of automated weapon systems. Notable partners for these dialogue events include the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Federation of German Industries (BDI), some of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), etc. The Department of Politics is also the point of contact for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and is involved in various AJC seminar events. It also engages in regular exchanges with the Catholic and Protestant churches.

The Department of Politics processes the BMVg’s membership of the Board of Trustees of the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF) and the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship. In addition, the annual peace report is presented to and discussed with various peace research institutes each year.

Engagement in arms control policy:
The BMVg regularly participates in events, exchanges and discussions on arms control and non-proliferation, including those involving academics and civil society organisations. The debates address current topics from the entire spectrum of arms control and non-proliferation issues. It would not be reasonable to name all of these events. However, in general, they include both events organised by the BMVg and external events organised by other departments, in particular, the Federal Foreign Office and the groups of people or institutes listed above, such as BAKS (BAKS is an independent service that, in organisational terms, belongs to the business area of the BMVg) [4], the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).

Engagement within the United Nations:
Members of the Department of Politics take part in UN-related events organised by think tanks, academic institutions and CSOs as guests and, in rare cases, also as speakers. The organisers of these events include the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP), the German Society for the United Nations, the Hertie School Berlin, the Center for International Peace Operations and the International Peace Institute.

There are also collaborative events held with external researchers as part of study projects. In 2019, the Politics Department held three workshops for the specialist participants (Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University, Leiden University, Global Governance Institute) in connection with the BMVg’s own study project entitled ‘Implementing the concept for protecting the civilian population in UN peacekeeping missions’ (workshop details: 8 November 2019, Washington DC; 12 November 2019, New York; 12-13 December 2019, Berlin).

Engagement with general strategic topics/individual partnerships:
As part of its security policy communication and networked action, and also for the purposes of increasing strategic capability, the Department of Politics maintains regular exchanges with civil society actors, including think tanks and scientific institutions.

The central, interlinked measures of the ‘overall strategy development system’ have been systematically launched since 2017: the ‘Strategy and Foresight’ network, the core of the overall system, with regular meetings involving representatives from business, science and civil society on topics of strategic relevance; the pilot project METIS at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich (a pioneer in strategic studies in Germany, which advises the Department of Politics and supports the ‘Strategy and Foresight’ network); the partnership with the Interdisciplinary Research Network Maritime Security (iFMS) at the University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg; the study project on ‘Early Crisis Detection through Literature Evaluation’, headed by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wertheimer at the University of Tübingen.

In addition, the BMVg is currently running a three-part series of (project-financed) events entitled ‘Projecting Stability’ with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). A specialist conference was held in April 2019, followed by a round table in November 2019. The final round table is scheduled for May 2020. There is also a similar collaborative project (a specially funded three-part series of events) with the ‘Liberal Modern’ institute on the subject of ‘New system competition – Russia, China and the West’. Two round tables (on Russia and China) were held in June and September 2018, and the final specialist conference will be held in March 2020 at the BMVg.

The Department of Politics regularly actively participates in the meetings and events of the advisory board ‘Civilian Crisis Prevention and Peacebuilding’, which includes representatives of non-governmental organisations, religious communities and science. This board advises the ministries on fundamental issues of conflict analysis and early warning of crises, as well as on the further development of approaches and instruments.

Collaborative relationships also exist in subordinate areas:
The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (GCMC) conducts regular and numerous collaborative events with various organisations such as the MSC GmbH, the Hanns Seidel Foundation and many more. The same applies to the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College and the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS), which maintain and organise regular exchanges and forms of cooperation with numerous actors in the security policy community.

Joint press conferences have not and will not be held with the organisations mentioned [5].

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).

There is a rich public debate over defence issues due to perceived threats and Greece’s high defence spending [1, 2]. There are several magazines specializing in security and defence, and even more websites which attract a high number of visitors daily. Newspapers regularly publish articles on Greek defence issues. The community of defence experts is relatively small and consists of a few dozens academics, journalists and retired officers. Debates usually focus on the politically sensitive issue of new weapon acquisitions.

From time to time, perhaps every five to six months depending on the situation, the Government informs the public about defence issues through press releases and media briefings (e.g. TV and newspaper interviews and press conferences). The main focus of these engagements remains the acquisition of new weapon systems from abroad. The Government also occasionally engages in public debates about the mandatory military service. However, members of Government rarely discuss other important but semi-classified issues such as doctrine and force posture.

Outside of the government, there is occasional public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. The debate addresses issues superficially, rather than persisting for in-depth and regular discussion [1]. There are numerous reasons for this, ranging from secrecy, weak civil society, and lack of funding the number of experts and independent think-tanks dealing with defence issues is extremely low. Due to their size, most institutions follow a generalist approach therefore the primarily discussed issues is the Hungarian military deployed in international missions, it is the only topic that is widely discussed [2].

Certain members of the government openly engage through public debates; however, it is largely lower-level officials and not through media briefings [1]. The Defence Ministry Deputy State Secretariat for Defence is the only directorate actively participating in debates regularly (Védelempolitikárt felelős helyettes államtitkár) [2, 3].

There is robust regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]. High priority issues are discussed with continuity through media outlets by way of print, online and television news segments.

The government engages in regular discussion with the public about defence issues through media briefings, public forums, in-studio live television interviews on multiple television channels and televised panel discussions [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]. Citizens can watch live proceedings on Parliament’s Lok Sabha television channel. Lok Sabha TV airs ‘Saksham Bharat’ a half an hour weekly discussion programme with defence experts on India’s preparedness, challenges, missions and achievements [9][10].

One interviewee stated that there have been public debates conducted by academics, journalists, opinion-formers and civil society organisations about defence issues, though they were not as intensive as they have been in the past [1]. This public debate is conducted in a more case-based fashion than usual, meaning that the debate only persists in cases that attract a lot of attention. In the past two years, there have been at least two major debates that have attracted public attention: firstly, the revision of the Law on Terrorism and secondly, neutrality and the return of the Armed Forces’ (ABRI) dual functions through participation in regional head elections. The revised Law on Terrorism discusses the role of the TNI in counterterrorism, the pros and cons of which are debated by the government, MPs, academics and coalitions of civil societies [2,3,4,5]. There are concerns that this will pave the way to the TNI playing a greater role in internal security issues for which responsibility should be limited to other security structures, most importantly the police. The issue of neutrality and the return of the ABRI’s dual functions is also prominent ahead of the regional head elections because there are active TNI officers who handed in their resignation shortly before the election time [6,7,8].

One interviewee stated that the government, in this case the Ministry of Defence and the TNI, did not involve academics and CSOs in matters of defence policy making [1]. The involvement of CSOs and academics was limited to the provision of material for focus group discussions, which are considered rare occasions. In the past two years, CSOs have never been consulted on defence policy planning [1]. However, the same cannot be said for academics, who have been invited to various defence-related focus group discussions organised by the Ministry of Defence [2]. The involvement of academics and CSOs in defence policy debate has been more willingly accommodated by government think tanks such as the Presidential Advisory Office (Wantimpres), Presidential Staff Office (Kantor Staf Presiden, KSP) and National Resilience Body (Lembaga Ketahanan Nasional, Lemhannas). Since 2017, Lemhannas, which is perhaps the most academic of all presidential security-related advisory bodies, has organised the Jakarta Geopolitics Forum, which functions as a platform for the exchange of ideas between local academics and practitioners with international sources [3]. This involvement model is not very effective because neither of these institutions are policy makers, although they are authorised to provide input to the President.

Public debate about defence issues is becoming more common in Iran, but it remains limited. At university events in December 2016 and April 2017, two students challenged Iranian officials on the country’s involvement in Syria [1]. However, in-depth discussions involving the government have yet to take place. Furthermore, one Iranian academic in political sciences at Tehran University regularly speaks out against Iran’s anti-Israel rhetoric and has questioned various foreign and security policies of the Islamic Republic. He was sentenced to jail in 2018 for anti-state propaganda, and banned from giving interviews and writing in the newspapers. He appealed the verdict, the outcome of which is unknown. [2]. Nevertheless, he remains active.

Military officials primarily provide about information defence issues. Commanders sometimes give exclusive interviews to selected media, but these are mainly a one-way discourse because they seem to be scripted in advance. The interviews are not live question and answer sessions. The foreign minister gives regular interviews with international media and takes part in various international discussion forums defending the country’s foreign and security policies, but the minister often tends to avoid questions. He has addressed some defence issues [1]. On the whole, the government seems to choose to avoid a lot of issues. It would seem that this tends to be left to the realm of military officials [2, 3].

Outside government, we find evidence of public debate that engages with defence affairs and pertinent issues in the form of media reports, exposé and radio programmes (1). Defence matters are openly discussed in press circles, online and offline. Iraqis post on their pages or anonymously, the preferred option, to freely respond to official commentary. Blogs and forums remain popular options too. What can be gleaned from news reports, social media feeds and local television (Al Hura, Sabah al Jadeed, Al Zaman) is that public debate has been heavily focused on issues of SSR, most notably, the restructuring of the Iraqi army (2) and the influence of Iraq’s foreign patrons on that process (3), (4). Evidence of polling conducted by local think tanks and research centres is easy to find online (5), (6). The state and its respective organs maintain distance from these discussions, opting for public platforms, where the public’s ability to participate is curtailed.

It was stated by a source (7) that, “TV appearances are used for political point-scoring”, rather than to alleviate people’s security/defence concerns (7). The most debated and contentious debates were prompted by ISG’s conquest of Mosul and the mobilization of young men that heeded Sistani’s call to arms; marking the birth of Iraq’s PMF. The group’s negotiated legal status and the shape of Iraq’s post-ISG security architecture never fail to generate lively public debate (8). The origin, transformation, ideological and political underpinnings, are among the discussion points. Khaled al Obeidi’s parliamentary hearing (9) before his impeachment, in which he was asked to defend himself against charges of corruption, inspired wide-reaching debates, however, public commentary of this was confined to online spaces.

The coverage the hearing received and publicity, has been viewed by some as a media ploy to further tarnish the ex-MoD, which backfired due to his popularity. In light of Iraqi state control of media, it is not surprising that public debates that tackle defence matters are not incentivized more. As the highest-ranking Ayatollah, Sistani is an important figure in political life, whose interventions within the realm of defence matters, is also debated in press circuits (10), (11). Sistani’s criticism of Iraq’s incumbent elite receives ample press attention (10). To echo TI’s 2015 assessment, there is no official forum where defence matters are debated transparently between state and civil society.

Government officials, representatives and security actors engage in regular debate, largely with the media, and some academic circles, on issues of defence (1), (2), (3), (4), (5). This is more likely during times of crises or in the run-up to an election; however, there are very few public forums. What’s more, there are limits to free speech, as various observers have documented, and criticism of powerful militias remains a red line. Abadi is not media-shy, appearing in TV interviews and writing op-eds that have featured in the WSJ and NYT. This itself does not constitute a direct engagement with the public of Iraq. In instances where protesters have taken to the streets, Abadi has travelled to the province in question to address protesters demands. In one instance, Abadi was greeted by angry protesters at Basra’s Sheraton hotel, screaming ‘come out you coward’. Soon after, Abadi was snuck out of the backdoor to safety (6). This implies a total break down of trust between Abadi and the citizens of Basra, in spite of his efforts to create dialogue.

Defence issues are in high priority in Israel, and there are public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) about defence issues. When debate occurs, it addresses generally only high priority issues with intensity and in-depth discussion, particularly from research institutes like the IDI and INSS (1) (2). This is mainly related to the fact that there is not a lot of information available due to security issues. Although the government does hold press conferences and releases statements to the people and the general public on various relevant matters of the state, there are no regular and scheduled meetings or briefings regarding policy and defense issues, yet it is expected, anticipated, and normal for the prime minister, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) commander, the chief of the police to engage with the public through briefings and press conferences about important developments and events. For many years there wasn’t any debate on defence issues but in the past few years we see more journalists and professor which criticises the defence policy and open some issues for public debate. For example, there was a public debate for years on the IDF presence in Lebanon. This debate helped shape the public opinion and the policy of Ehud Barak government in 2000, which drew the soldiers out of Lebanon back home. The same debate happened a few years later in Gaza and in the end led to the withdraw from Gaza (3) (4). In recent years there are several debates. For example a debate for and against the annexation of the Jordan Rift Valley (5). Sometimes economic journalists from “the marker” also open a debate against the pensions IDF officers receive. This kind of debates are new because over the years the concensus was with the defence and security sectors. The reason for this is the hostile enviroment that made people believe that critics against the security sector is non-patriotic act. For instance, this is a statement from prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on November 18th 2018, following his occupation of the minister of defence role (6). This is another statement to the media and public through a press conference, on November 12th 2019. This conference was held by the Prime Minister, head of the IDF Aviv Kohavi, and the head of the “Shabak”, Nadav Argaman, following Israel’s assassination of an important Jihadist, recognized with terror originating in Gaza (7).

As mentioned defence issues are major in Israel and therefore, the public debate is limited. The government can’t answer several classified issues. However, overall the government is open for debate as seen in Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005) which are issues with high importance (1). These examples show how a public debate happens in Israel but not all the time. It all depends on the issues and relevance. The government and IDF publish many newsletters to the public in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit website which also holds regular briefings (2). Security officials also occasionally attend public discussions and various seminars in media and academia events (3) (4). However, contributions at these events generally take the form of opening remarks andtightly framed interviews that do not address sensitive or challenging topics in great detail. Moreover the government does not hold regular media briefings about the activities of the defence department. The engagement with the civil society does not take place very often.

Public debate on defence issues outside the government is generally inconstant and mainly focused on two main aspects: armament acquisition/export and personnel deployed abroad. Public debate has certainly increased over time but it is still confined to newspapers, or TV. It does not involve a wide array of civil society organisations (CSOs) and it is mainly driven by sentimentalism. Recent attacks to the US military base in Iraq, to the military base close to Kirkuk, to the Italian military convoy in Mogadishu, or the fall of a military drone in Libya, have been closely followed. There are some forms of engagement in debate with CSOs, but when this occurs, it is done through closed door events attended only by members of the expert community, academics, as well as members of the parliament or of the armed forces [1].

Engagement of the government in public discussion remains very limited and sporadic. Nonetheless, when this occurs it can be on several aspects of the defence policy and include open debate [1]. The government also engages in public debate, including responding to questions by the public [2], and through updated information on the website [3]

Several media channels broadcast debates on defence issues. The public viewing fee funded broadcaster NHK’s weekly television program “NHK Sunday Debate” often raises such issues. [1] Commercially sponsored TV channels have debates about security issues as well. TV Asahi, affiliated with the mainstream newspaper Asahi Shimbun, broadcasts the debate program “Live TV until the morning” once a month. In 2019, a comprehensive debate on the Japanese government’s policies, including its foreign and security policy, was held on December 31, and programs throughout the year had security policy vis-à-vis other major and middle powers as one of several foci. [2] Television Nishinippon, a channel based in Western Japan, broadcasts “The Prime,” a debate program dedicated to politics, each Sunday. Of the nine latest programs before September 21, two had agendas that implicitly included defence. One item discussed was whether to revise the Constitution, a topic that includes whether to loosen constitutional constraints on the use of military force, and an earlier broadcast dealt with how to respond to the rise of China. [3] Civil Society Organisations like the Tokyo Foundation sometimes organise security policy events, for example on North Korean nuclear policy or US-Japan security relations. [4] Many media debates have been stimulated by Government initiatives, such as the debates on constitutional amendments to allow changes in defence policy. [5] The CSO Genron also discusses extended issues of a deeper level of engagement, such as a vision of civil society playing a role in diplomacy. [6] A search of the mainstream newspaper Asahi Shimbun on for articles about public debates on security issues that involved non-profit organisations (NPOs) returned 15 hits, [7] and an identical search of the mainstream newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun returned no hits. [8] Taken as a whole, there is frequent, but perhaps not regular public debate on defence issues. The involvement of CSOs / NPOs indicates that debate is in-depth.

The government contributes to debate on defence policy by making policy documents. [1] Furthermore, the Minister of Defence gives interviews which are posted on the homepages of the Ministry of Defence. [2] Leading members of the Executive, such as cabinet members, occasionally take part in debates organised by think tanks and other civil society organisations. For example, Japan’s Minister of Defence Taro Kono participated in a seminar attended by leading researchers organised by the CSO Tokyo Foundation in September 2019. [3] More frequently, researchers at government affiliated research institutes will attend such seminars. Examples are the participation of a researcher at the Ministry of Defence affiliated National Institute for defence Studies in a panel discussion on nuclear weapons organised by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in July 2019, as well as the participation of a head of research at the MSDF Staff College in a panel discussion on maritime security the same month, organised by the same foundation. [4] Likewise, on July 26, 2019, the civil society organisation Genron organised a seminar on Japan-China security relations that included panelists from academic institutions as well as former high-ranking JSDF officers. [5] A search of the webpages of the MOD did not turn up any active methods of debate, however. [6]

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 occasional public debates on defence issues the majority are held in the media often led by pundits drawn from academia, policy practitioners, ex-military officials and Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) as well as media commentators. [1]

The debates are largely influenced by media discourses often shaped or in response current affairs and crises involving defence operations such as, but not limited to, corruption scandals, lapses in military operations and impacts of war like mental health issues among veterans. [2] A scheme of various debates indicates as often is the case they rarely have representation from department of defence officials, and there is limited but at times no official position from KDF officials on these issues. To this end, existing debates are irregular (depend on news cycles) and rely on sketchy and anecdotal information and data.

There are on occassions, where official authorities are involved, the majority are done, for instance, within parliamentary committee hearings or general National Assembly debates and at times through media reports that involve KDF officials, such as through an officially sponsored trip to military operations. [1] It is important to point out that in the case of the former, debates are limited, controlled and at times held in-camera i.e., private without public involvment in parliament. In addition, in the latter case where officials grant the media access, the information is given verbally and often not backed by official published policies. [2] Moreover, there is failure on part of the media to declare conflicts of interested, especially involving trips sponsored by the military or the state.

Since 2014 when Kosovo institutions made attempts to establish the armed forces, until 2018 when the package of draft laws were presented by the Kosovo Government, both the government and non-state actors, such as academics, journalists, opinion-formers and Civil Society Organisations have largely contributed through public debates to discussions on defence-related matters in Kosovo. Various conferences, workshops, seminars and other types of public debates have been occasionally organised by Civil Society Organisations and think tanks specialised in the field of security. Debates on challenging issues, such as the transformation of the Kosovo Security Forces to armed forces, have involved key stakeholders such as senior officials of the Government, the President of Kosovo’s cabinet, Members of the Kosovo Assembly, ethnic communities in Kosovo (especially Kosovo Serb community representatives), foreign diplomats and foreign embassies (US Embassy, UK Embassy, German Embassy, French Embassy, Italian Embassy, etc.), senior members from the North Atlantic Trade Organisation, and members from the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) [1, 2, 3]. Furthermore, prior to parliamentary adoption, these laws are discussed in public debates between members of the relevant Assembly’s committee and citizens of all ethnic communities in Kosovo in order for these laws to be well-informed and fairly implemented [4, 5].

Engagement of the Kosovo Government and other state institutions in public discourse on the relevant topic is limited to media debates, press conferences, government gatherings, the Assembly’s sessions, and the relevant Assembly committee meetings [1]. Officials of these institutions provide very general information on defence issues, with particular focus on the most topical issue, being the Security Forces’ transformation into the armed forces [2]. The government and other institutions rarely but occasionally organise public consultations and debates on the transformation process of the Security Forces; however the government and institutions participate actively in the debates, conferences or events organised by Civil Society Organisations in Kosovo [3]. Therefore, state representatives are rarely available to directly discuss with the public these defence issues [1]. Ultimately, the government does not help to organise public discussions or consultations on defence related issues with academics, opinion-formers, Civil Society Organisations, media and other non-state actors (with some exceptions). These events are principally organised by independent Civil Society Organisations or think tanks in Kosovo.

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.

The defence policy at large is widely debated by the parliament, the government, as well as in public given the topicality of the issue in the current security environment (perception of Russia as the most significant security threat after the events in Ukraine, as well as direct intimidation activities directed against Latvia and the West at large).
Independent and government-related think tanks regularly organise public discussions and conferences on a wide variety of defence and security issues with the support of the governmental institutions, international organisations, private sector and non-governmental organisations [1] [2] [3] [4]. Debate also takes place through annual events such as the ‘Riga Conference’ on security issues, and the largest security conference in Northern Europe [1]. LAMPA is the annual democracy festival, in which the MoD partakes with a regular discussion slot, see for example [6,7].
According to the government reviewer, the defence industry is also involved in the debate on defence. In September 2019, the MoD organised a discussion with the defence industry representatives about the upcoming State Defence Concept and the challenges the defence industry faces [8]. The National Defence Academies Research Centre organised a public annual conference on December 5 in Radisson Blu Daugava which was held in English and hosted foreign and Latvian academics to discuss issues related to defence. With the aim of raising awareness of state officials, politicians, experts and societies at large in Allied countries regarding security challenges in the region, as well as Latvian security and defence policy interests. Latvia cooperates with several international think-tanks. The expertise of think-tanks allows fostering public debate and facilitates policy-making.

The MOD engages in cooperation with CSOs, which also helps foster the public security debate. The most visible example of this is the Riga Conference, organised together with the Latvian Atlantic Treaty Association (LATO) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) since 2006. The Ministry cooperates with academic research centres and engages in public discussions. As demonstrated in the previous indicator, discussions have been active and have covered a wide spectrum of issues, while excluding inclusive debates on procurements. On the one hand, the Ministry of Defence has done regular surveys to research public opinion on various issues, [1] and regularly provides information to the media and thus to society directly (via portal “Sargs” only since 2018 [2]).
On the other hand, the Ministry tends to provide concrete narratives, expecting favourable coverage of its opinion, while its level of self-criticism is low. [3] [4]
According to the government reviewer, each year the MoD together with the Armed Forces organise presentations across Latvian high schools to inform pupils about what it does and what it intends to do in the future [5]. The MoD, the Minister of Defence and the Armed forces participated in the Latvian discussion/communication festival ‘Lampa’, where there was public discussion about defence issues. There were opportunitiess for the audience to ask questions and express their opinions on defence issues [6].

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).

There are active public debates within academia, think tanks, NGOs and politicians. The main focus of these discussions evolve around increasing the defence budget, as well as the procurement of certain items; and the role of citizens in defending Lithuania and resisting external dangers [1,2,3,4]. There are also courses organised annually for teachers regarding active citizenship and national security; conferences about defence politics involving different stakeholders; and discussions at universities [5,6,7].

There are active public debates within academia, think tanks, NGOs and politicians. The main focus of these discussions evolve around increasing the defence budget, as well as the procurement of certain items; and the role of citizens in defending Lithuania and resisting external dangers [1,2,3,]. Every year, some of these events are organised, co-organised or attended by the Army and the Government [4,5,6].

There is limited public debate on issues of defence. Debate is mostly limited to academia and interested parties in the commercial defence sector. Few general public discussions and news forums, on defence in particular, exist. Examples include the Malaysia Defence, [1] Malaysian Military Power [2] and the Malaysia Flying Herald. [3] Even in mainstream media, commentaries on defence are few and are written in light of announced decisions or in response to incidents [4] [5] [6] [7] Public debate may be stifled by restrictive laws which limit freedom of expression, in particular the Sedition Act 1948, [8] the Official Secrets Act 1972, [9] the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, [10] Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012, [11] and Anti-Fake News Act 2018. [12] These laws may potentially limit debate, although there is no evidence that they have been used in the context of defence. The lack of debate may be attributed more to the fact that the public lacks knowledge on defence matters, as noted by GIACC’s Deputy Director-General. [13] Consequently, MPs recognise they cannot gain much political mileage from using defence matters in political speeches, and topics that allow Malaysian politicians to gain political mileage are typically those which will feature most extensively in any sort of speech or debate. [14]

Within the defence circle in Malaysia, there is growing debate and engagement with public actors. The Malaysia Defence White Paper that was tabled in Parliament in December 2019 includes recommendations and discussions with academia, CSOs and other stakeholders in defence. [1] [2] [3] But on the other hand, the Ministry of Defence only issued five press releases in 2018, and none were to respond to any public debate. [4] Despite the lack of engagement in public discourse, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) maintains an up-to-date website and Twitter platform, [5] reflecting that communication with the general public is likely one-way.

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.

There is evidence of a regular public debate on defence and security issues in recent years. Academics, journalists, and civil society organisations actively participate in the debate and analyse the impact of government policies on defence and security. They try, among other things, to inform and create greater awareness in the rest of the population. This occurred, for example, with the now repealed Internal Security Law and the recently created National Guard – a civil, disciplined, and professional public security institution, attached as a decentralised administrative body of the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection – [1] in the face of increased fears of militarization in the country. An Observatory is even being created to monitor the formation of the National Guard, but it is a job that will require a lot of effort. [2]

Most of these debates are held in the media (television, radio, written press, forums, etc.) and even in official spaces such as the Congress of the Union. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

In recent years, government participation in debates on defence issues has become more common, although spaces have been reduced to press conferences and public events. [1] The focus is also more on public security issues. [2]

The government’s participation in the public debate is in response to the demand of civil society organisations, and is reflected in official documents such as the Program for National Security (2014-2018) and the National Development Plan (2018-2024). [3] [4] [5]

Debates on Montenegro’s accession to NATO were organised outside the government, mainly by NGOs. [1][2] Public debates on other issues related to defence were very limited, since only a few NGOs partly deal with this subject, while academia rarely engages in any public debate. [3]

The Ministry participates in occasional events organised by NGOs [1] and invited NGOs to submit proposals for project funding [2] and to participate in or contribute to the development of some strategic documents. [3] However, there are no meaningful communication channels, online or offline, and only one public debate has been recently announced at the website of the Ministry, [4] following pressure from the civil society. [5]

After becoming a NATO member, a new Communication Strategy – Montenegro as a member of NATO 2018-2020 – came into force. For 2020, two public calls for project proposals for CSOs were announced, and two projects are planned to be implemented; one with the TV Vijesti and the other with the NGO Alfa Center. [6]

– 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)

The military has not debated military issues before. However, it has often held press conferences and discussed contemporary issues such as clashes in the northern Rakhine State, Palatwa in Chin State, the three northern allies and the issue of weapons being caught on Facebook and on television recently. Moreover, news of the seizure of weapons can be seen on Facebook, television, and other media [1,2]. Crucial defence discussions about security sector reforms take place through the meeting of the National Ceasefire agreement. There are public debates, seminars and conferences organised by CSOs, such as the Myanmar Institute of Peace and Security (MIPS) [3] and the Institute of Strategy and Policy (ISP) [4], relating to the military in the peace process. The 2018 Model Union Peace Conference, organised by university students with the support of MIPS, included discussions of the current peace process and the role of military [5]. Public debates relating to the peace process are common but there is rarely any specific talk relating soley to the defence sector.

Some government officials, such as Dr. Aung Moe Nyo (Chief Minister of Magway Region), Daw Htu May (Member of Parliament) U Htet Aung (Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Office of Union Government), have participated as speakers in the talk show ‘Yaw Min Gyi Zayat’, organised by ISP [1]. Retired Senior Officer Thura Thet Swe participated as a speaker in the talk show ‘Yaw Min Gyi Zayat’ [2] and other retired officers participated in DVB debates [3]. Military officials never particapte in public debate. Press conferences relating to defence matters are held monthly by the military’s True News Information Team [4].

The Netherlands has a culture of openly debating Dutch defence policy and security strategy though journalism, activism and public discussions. As outlined in Question 3, national think tanks play a large role in this policy debate. Numerous media outlets and blogs, such as Militaire Spectator, De Volkskrant and Follow the Money, drive defence policy into the public’s purview. Debate is consistent on high priority issues over time. One example of a topic that has been widely and consistently discussed is the contraction of the defence budget for 25 years (until 2019) and how this resulted in structural deficiencies within the Ministry of Defence [1,2,3].

The government engages in regular debate with academia, opinion-formers and civil society about defence issues through workshops, panel discussions and private meetings. Last year, the Minister of Defence spoke at an event on the Future of NATO, while the Minister of Foreign Affairs met with think tank researchers to receive and discuss the results of the 2019-2020 Strategic Monitor [1,2]. Moreover, in a programme organised by the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), numerous stakeholders, including academics, government officials, defence personnel and civil society organisations, namely PAX for Peace, regularly convened over a two-year period to discuss the implications of integrating robotic and autonomous systems into the military [3]. As part of this project, nine members from the House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Defence attended a military base with analysts from HCSS in January 2020. The one-day workshop included a demonstration of the Dutch army’s most advanced systems, presentations on the applicability of robotic and autonomous systems and an open plenary discussion on the topic, during which participants could speak their thoughts freely.

There is public debate on defence issues, although this is delineated between academics and the general public. One of the main avenues for debate is the quarterly magazine Line of Defence and the more general New Zealand Security Magazine, which are both published by Defsec Media Limited, an independent publisher [1]. These regularly have columns and articles by academics, private sector individuals, and government employees, including ministers and shadow-ministers. Among academics, there is greater interest within the more established foreign affairs sector than with defence matters directly. This is seen in the relatively small academic community with a main focus on defence as opposed to security or politics and international relations. Only Massey University and Victoria University have centres with programmes that focus specifically on defence [2]. Across the other New Zealand universities, academic units tend to focus on security-related topics in the spheres of international relations, conflict, and terrorism studies [3]. Among the general public matters of defence are less frequently discussed. Debate that arises usually occurs upon the nearing of major events or decisions – especially regarding issues of procurement and casualties. An indication of this is seen in the absence of a Defence Correspondent within New Zealand’s largest newspaper The New Zealand Herald [4]. This is replicated by New Zealand’s largest online news outlet, Stuff, as although it includes “more than 500 journalists” across the country, none could be found with a defence portfolio or designation (a request for confirmation by the Country Assessor went unanswered) [5]. Arguably, the rationale for this situation could be due to New Zealand’s small defence footprint – there is no need for specialist defence-correspondents. The absence of specialist defence correspondents does not reflect a lack of public criticism of Defence, however it logically results in a journalistic field that is less informed and knowledgeable. Given New Zealand’s traditionally pacifist leanings this reality makes the Defence sector’s engagement with CSOs all the more important.

(Refer to Q6A, specifically articles within Line of Defence, with pieces written by government employees, this also usually includes interviews with defence personnel.) In 2017, the NZDF organised and hosted the 10th International Lessons Learned Conference, which saw in-depth debate and discussion on many wide-ranging factors impacting military operations and humanitarian and aid relief efforts. Guests included members of government agencies, academics, and independent specialists from around the globe but specifically Pacific Rim nations [1]. The recent release of recommendations on the Burnham Inquiry is also evidence that the Government is conscious of the need to engage with, and inform, the public of defence issue that may be controversial. According to the MoD’s Statement of Intent 2018-2022, enhancing domestic engagement is a high priority such that it is currently developing a “strategy to enhance, direct and prioritise its engagement with stakeholders in New Zealand” [2]. In particular this is aimed at those attending universities. The Ministry’s website is the key conduit through which it engages with the public as it regularly releases information on changes and updates related to capability decisions and deployments [3].

The NZDF has direct engagement with the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University and the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University. The MoD and NZDF contribute to higher research by sponsoring the prestigious Freyberg Scholarship each year and together with its other initiatives maintains a link with independent research and public opinion [4, 5]. According to the Intelligence Agencies themselves, they do engage with the media through media enquiries, press statements, and interviews. Academics produce research into the role of security and intelligence agencies, and universities run papers on related topics. Recently the Director-General, GCSB spoke to Otago University’s POLS213 on the GCSB’s role in supporting national security decision making. [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]. A further example is of the inquiry into the 2016 Local Authority Elections initiated by the Justice and Electoral Committee of the previous Parliament. Subsequent to the end of that Parliament, in July 2018, the new Justice Committee resolved to consider the previous committee’s inquiry together with an inquiry into the 2017 General Election. The Director-General of Security and Director-General of the GCSB appeared before the inquiry twice, in April and August 2019 in order to make a submission relating to foreign interference. Public submissions were called for when the initial 2016 inquiry was initiated, and again when in July 2018 the new Justice Committee resolved to consider the previous committee’s inquiry together with an inquiry into the 2017 General Election. Submissions received for the inquiry into the 2016 Local Authority Elections were considered as part of the combined inquiry. In March 2019, the committee resolved to invite further submissions about how New Zealand could protect its democracy from inappropriate foreign interference. In total, the committee received submissions from 137 submitters. It heard oral evidence from 44 submitters between 25 October 2018 and 27 August 2019. At the conclusion of the inquiry the committee made 14 recommendations relating to the 2017 general election, 20 relating to local elections, and 21 relating to foreign interference [17, 18].

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).

Given North Macedonia’s specific geo-strategic position in the Balkans, as well as its fragile internal state, issues of defence and security have been a continuously focus for the nation, and addressed regularly in public by a range of stakeholders from the Government, media, Corporate Security Officers etc. The country’s priority aim in joining NATO has also been touched on in these debates on defence. Round tables and public consultations addressing the West-ward facing partnerships of the country have frequently taken place [1]. However, this debate has been overshadowed by discussions around the future benefits of NATO membership (i.e. stability, security, democratisation, foreign investments) at the expense of the specific details of a national defence policy [2]. Very often, the latter has been superficially addressed in public and, equally, debated mostly within closed, high-level political and professional circles only. For instance, a recent conference organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled “Macedonia: Euro-Atlantic Integration, New Challenges and Opportunities” was co-organised with the European Centre for Security Studies and the George C. Marshall Centre [3].

The Government has been generally transparent with the public regarding issues in the defence sector. The Government communicates its policies through public forums, an active website and the social media, and holds regular briefings with journalists and the CSOs. Since 2015 the Government has maintained a page on its website specifically for information available to the public, including all defence related acts and documents such as the defence budget for instance [1], as well as information for how to report corruption [2]. It also publishes an international journal [3] and a defence magazine [4] discussing issues relating to defence. In March 2018, for the first time in the Ministry of Defence’s history, a public call for financial grants for the CSOs was announced. This prompted more debate around public defence, and raised issues around transparency in the realm of defence [5].

There is regular public debate on issues of defence outside of the Government. Research institutes, think tanks and CSOs actively participate and organise seminars on the topic of defence policy and security strategy. An example of this is the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, a politically independent institute within the Norwegian Armed Forces, which regularly hosts open conferences and seminars dealing with defence and security issues both in a national and international context [1]. The Norwegian Atlantic Committee (Den norske Atlanterhavskomité) organises courses, lectures and seminars with experts and decision-makers (public and behind closed doors) and conferences, including the the annual Leangkollen Security conference gathering international and Norwegian researchers and senior officials to give speeches on current defence, foreign and security policy issues [2]. A further example is the NGO Norges Forsvarsforening (Norwegian Defence Association), which hosts seminars and public debates bringing together representatives of civil organisations, academia and the Armed Forces. The local branches of the Norwegian Defence Association are to organise at least 1-2 seminars on current topics [3]. However, media debates appear at times to lack in-depth insight and the capability to engage in a critical evaluation of defence policy and security strategy [4].

Government officials are made available for comment [1, 2] and the Ministry of Defence regularly releases news on its website. The same concerns the Armed Forces, which has its own communications section and a separate website [3]. Both are also present on social media. Representatives of the Government and the Armed Forces regularly participate in open seminars, dialogue meetings or media briefings. The Ministry of Defence regularly co-organises discussions with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs [4]. The Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces are also co-organisers of annual seminars on international law and the defence sector hosted by the Norwegian Red Cross [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).

There is wider public discussion and debate on defence issues, but this is often limited to broad issues (for example the balance between internal vs. external threats) and does not include a more in-depth, sustained analysis of aspects such as scrutiny on specific line items in the defence budget or procurement policies which are limited to more elite circles. Discussion and debate is also tied to high-profile developments such as the disclosure of budgets or developments with respect to major powers like China or the United States, rather than being sustained and continuous [1, 2].

Government engagement in public discourse involves media briefings tied to major events, where wide-ranging questions are clarified. There is occassional participation in think tank events, as well as developments covered on the DND and AFP websites, but not to the extent of co-organising activities and active engagement in reshaping debates [1, 2, 3].

Outside the government, there is regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. Debate persists on high priority issues for some time, rather than being superficially addressed. The topic is taken up by industry media (Defence24), as well as general national media (Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza, [1, 2, 3, 4].

The government engages in discussion with the public about defence issues through media briefings, social media [1] and participation in conferences [2]. However, this does not happen regularly, and some briefings do not answer questions [3]. There are examples of public debates on defence industry organized by or with the participation of public institutions [4, 5, 6].

Debate on defence policy increased in intensity during the Tancos weapon misplacement case [1], leading to some relevant articles in general media outlets [2, 3, 4]. There is a perceived increased public scrutiny over defence policy [5, 6], but regular and in-depth discussion remains lacking.

The Ministry of Defence’s engagement with broader society has increased in recent years [1, 2], particularly since the current minister of defence entered office [3]. This includes explanations on the defence budget [1], the establishment of a defence roadshow [3], social media engagement which spans branch presence [4], a list of the Minister of Defence’s public speeches [5], open data resources [6] and a recent focus on engagement with society through measures #38 – (Defesa + Próxima) [7] and #43 (Pensar Defesa+) [8] of the Simplex public administration modernization programme. However, it is unclear the extent to which this represents concrete engagement. Most statistical data published in the Ministry of Defence web portal dates to 2016 and there is no evidence of outreach impact nor of attempts to measure it.

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.

The Ukrainian crisis, several scandals involving the distribution of military supplies [1,2], corruption in the state corporation ‘RosCosmos’ [3] and the most recent news about Russian private armies [4,5] have prompted regular and in-depth public debate about defence issues outside government, particularly among academics, journalists and CSOs. In the media, there is active discussion about corruption in the army, lack of basic procurement for soldiers and the high level of secrecy surrounding defence budgeting and military operations outside of Russia [6]. However, it seems that the MoD either ignores or denies the accusations, especially regarding corruption, presented by the media. Interestingly, there was a report about monitoring media pieces about corruption in the army in 2016 and first half of 2017 [7]. It records 585 pieces about corruption in the army but concludes that ‘most of the pieces…did not require any measures to be taken (by the MoD)’ [7]. The report mentions only two cases where a refutation was published. No similar reports regarding media monitoring have been published since then.

The Russian MoD has a very active website with regular news updates, information about its structure and regulations [1]. There are several channels for feedback, incuding a hotline to report corruption withing two clicks from the main page [2]. However, there is no evidence indicating that military officials actually respond to public inquiries.

There is an active MoD Public Council (MoD PC). Among the MoD PC’s 39 members are religious leaders, doctors, artists and academic and military professionals [3]. The PC platform, however, cannot be considered an open forum, as the members are appointed by the MoD and the meetings are not open.

The PC members often visit military bases and monitor soldiers’ procurement and they meet regularly with MoD officials. The MoD PC’s objectives are the ‘protection of human rights of citizens and the right of civil organisations to form and implement state policy in defence and military service and conduct civil control over the MoD’s work’ [4]. Twice a year, the PC meets with the Minister of Defence. However, according to the public reports of such meetings, the major discussion topics are limited to the academic or entertainment events that the PC members organise for soldiers, patriotic movements supported by PC members and field visits to military bases [5,6]. The PC seems to have no power to comment on or monitor any strategic issues related to the MoD.

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.

Debate on important defence issues is present in the public but can rather be characterized as individual efforts of interested actors, than continuous discussion involving all the relevant parties. There is a group of selected civil society organizations and journalists which consistently follow defence topics. The public debate comes down to reactions of individual actors to the most important developments within the defence system, be it legislative changes, large defence procurements or international military cooperation. For instance, when a set of defence laws entered the amending procedure at the end of 2017, the analyses of drafts were provided through media appearances, articles and public events by different actors [1].

Dialogue between civil society and the MoD is not systematic. It is mostly initiated by the civil society organisations which maintain the discussion on issues of defence by publishing policy papers and reports, appearing in the media and organizing round tables and conferences. Debate on certain issues has been initiated by the MoD, such as the participation of civilians in peacekeeping operations or amendments to the Laws on Defence and SAF [1, 2].
When it comes to changes in defence legislation, public discussions are often circumvented by urgent procedures and if public hearings are enabled, they are usually very short and poorly announced and promoted. Out of six laws which entered the amending procedure at the end of 2017, two have not passed the public hearing at all, whereas for the rest a discussion was open for 20 days. Similar to the deliberation on strategic documents, when laws on important aspects of defence were passing through the public hearing, besides participating in the discussions, the public could provide comments in the form of amendments. However, the draft laws have entered the parliamentary procedure in an almost unchanged form [3, 4].

The media regularly covers defence developments in Singapore, largely relating to National Service, new capabilities, and policy announcements. The media is also able to pose queries on defence matters to the Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) Communications Directorate, which maintains a list of available media relations officers for media contact. There is also a 24-hour hotline for urgent enquiries. However, debate with the government on defence is largely limited to the government’s terms with potential consequences for dissenting or controversial views that potentially result in loss of reputation or trust in government action or policies [1]. As a result, there is no evidence of investigative journalism or critical public debate on most defence issues Debate on many issues with any political content in Singapore is largely superficial, with press freedom generally limited – ranked 151 out of 180 in the RSF 2019 index – and locally-based media are conditioned to practise self-censorship to avoid undue pressure from the government. A new law passed in May 2019 enables the government to order individuals or organisations to remove and correct published content on what it deems to be “fake news” or “against the public interest” stirred controversy among the public when it was first announced but was easily passed with a majority in the PAP-dominated parliament [2].

There is evidence that the government engages in regular discussion with the public about defence issues through a range of online and physical platforms. It has set up the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD), but its impact on social discourse on defence is limited. Although it regularly engages with public stakeholders such as employers, it is mainly engaged with building goodwill and support for National Service rather than facilitating critical dialogue on defence policy, and there is no evidence that it has been consulted on matters of higher strategic importance [1]. For example, MINDEF did not disclose details of its selection of the F-35 combat aircraft from the US, such as its selection criteria vis-à-vis other aircraft types, the version of the aircraft to be procured as well as the budget set aside for the acquisition, although it has been provided by the US government [2].

There are regular multi-platform debates on defence issues. Although some coverage is superficial, there are instances where defence issues, particularly that of procurement and misconduct of soldiers, is discussed in more depth [1,2]. Recent debate has included discussions on the use of the defence force on Armed Forces Day and the general problem in defence forces funding. Defence funding issues have been a predominant topic of discussion amongst academics and journalists since 2017 [3, 4].

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and Department of Defence (DoD) regularly issue press releases, host media briefings and engage with the public at large on significant events within their departments. These range from disciplinary issues to procurement challenges and general events. The SANDF and DoD each have communications heads that are generally responsive to media queries for comment. The SANDF likewise allows for ad hoc embeds with units in training or on operations [1].

Due to the defence and security environment in the Korean peninsula, which has been divided into two countries for over a half-century, significant public attention has focused on defence issues. There has been a regular public debate with civil society organisations, media and policy-makers. [1] In addition, multiple research centres and think tanks with a focus on defence and security sector exist in South Korea, including the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, the Korean Institute for Military Affairs, the Institute for National Security Strategy and KODEF. [2] [3] [4] [5] The debates are often led by these institutions and cover a wide range of topics, ranging from defence acquisition, to North Korean issues or the military personnel pension scheme. Some debates, such as the conference run by the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, have occurred annually for decades. [2]

There is evidence showing the government’s engagement with the public through media briefings or conferences and open forums organised by the National Assembly. During an interview, a member of staff working for the National Defence Committee at the National Assembly said that officers in the defence sector are often invited to participate in discussions with academics, the media and civil society organisations. [1] As an example of the recent activities, in May 2019, officers from Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) and the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea (BAI) participated in open forums run by the National Defence Committee discussing how to improve defence acquisition policy. [2] [3] The Ministry of National Defence hosts the Seoul Defence Dialogue (SDD), the vice-ministerial level multilateral security consultative body, to discuss defence and security issues with different countries annually. It was formed in 2012 to engage in multilateral security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. [4]
In 2018, before the inter-Korean Pyongyang Summit, the govement “co-organized” a special conference broadcasted live, inviting civilian security experts.[5] The National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC), a consitutional institution established in accordance with Article 92 of the ROK Constititution has arranged various regular forums on defense issues on behalf of the government, inviting civil professionals and CSOs. The NUAC is a presidential consultative body set up to establish and implement policies on democratic and peaceful unification [6]. Furthermore, more recently senior government. officials and the presidential advisor engaged in discussion with a liberal civil organization live-streamed through Youtube[ 7].

There is extremely limited debate on defence issues. Some CSOs, however, are engaged in discussing security issues. Issues that inhibit discussion on defence issues are the following: first, the restrictive environment prevents such discussion in the media. [1] A perception that defence matters are national security issues (and hence not liable for public discussion) prohibits free discussion. Second, a nuanced understanding of defence matters beyond the superficial is lacking. [2]

The government rarely engages with the public on defence issues. When such engagement happens, it is during crisis moments or emergencies, such as during the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) attack on Heglig in 2013. [1] Lack of knowledge on technical aspects or even the strategic imperatives of defence and security issues prevents a holistic understanding warranting an intelligent discussion in the public domain. [1]

According to the latest poll by the National Centre on Sociological Investigations (CIS) of September 2017, 58.6% of the population is seldom interested or not interested in news about defence and the armed forces in the media (cf. 62.3% in the 2011 poll, 64.6% in the 2013 poll and 62.4% in the 2015 poll); 63.6% of the population seldom or never talk about issues related to defence, security, peace or the Armed Forces with family members and friends (cf. 67.9% in 2011, 70.3% in 2013 and 67% in 2015); and 33.8% of the population has no opinion with regards to defence budgets (32.9 in 2011, 29.4% in 2013 and 37.3% in 2015). Thus, while the population is, in general, not very interested in these topics, the percentages of people interested are increasing [1].

There are some organisations and think tanks that debate security and defence issues. Some are close to (or integral parts of) institutions, including the Ministry of Defence [2, 3]. Some other civil society organisations are not close to those institutions and are very active, primarily in the major cities and in certain regions (Catalonia, Madrid, and the Basque country are particularly active, and regional governments are even ready to fund projects on security and defence). Decentralisation in Spain helps the debate. On the one hand, groups closer to institutions and political parties such as the Real Instituto Elcano, FAES, Fundacion Alternativas, among others, are active publishing and organising conferences about security and defence. On the other, a myriad of pacifist organisations, including the Centre Delàs for Peace Studies [4] and other organisations who are members of the Spanish Association of Peace Research (AIPAZ), are also active in promoting such debate. There are also some departments in universities and degrees specialised in defence and security. Additionally, some CSOs have their own dissemination activities about defence. Their experts are often interviewed in the mass media.

There are few topics that are of media interest and have sometimes facilitated a limited debate. In particular, certain foreign military operations, costs and budgets, certain arms exports and some cases of corruption. But a majority of key topics are seldom debated, even in specialised media on defence such as Infodefensa, with limited access and lacking depth. There are certain media (mainly independent) and editorials (e.g. Icaria, Catarata, Paidós) that often publish in-depth analysis issues regarding security and defence.

The primary think tanks that specialise in defence are either fully governmental (e.g. IEEE) or sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and/or arms companies, who are members of their decision and consulting bodies. For instance, at the Real Istituto Elcano, Navantia is a “Collaborator Entity”; members within the “Executive Commision” include Carlos Gómez-Múgica Sanz (director of Institutional Relations at Airbus Group in Spain) and Almirante Juan Francisco Martínez Núñez (Secretary-General of Defence Policy at the Ministry of Defence); members of the Scientist Council include Miguel Ángel Ballesteros (Director of the National Security Department at the Presidency of the Spanish government); and members of the Board include Alberto Gutiérrez (president of Airbus Spain), Margarita Robles Fernández (Minister of Defence) and, until 31 December 2018, Fernando Abril-Martorell (president of Indra) [5, 6].

The Ministry of Defence promotes a so-called “culture of defence”, which in certain sensitive cases may lead to the uncritical acceptance of government policy by citizens. In Art. 31 of the LODN it states: “The Ministry of Defence will promote the development of a defence culture in order for Spanish society to know, value and identify with its history and with the solidarity and effective effort through which the Armed Forces safeguard national interests. Likewise, the rest of the public powers will contribute to achieving this end” [1].

The content of the Ministry of Defence’s website is very limited, and the information is biased and select. It states that the war in Iraq concluded in April 2003 and that the subsequent Spanish military deployment was/is for “humanitarian support” [2]. Moreover, another website about defence, from the “Departamento de Seguridad Nacional” gives very limited information [3].

As stated in 6A, there are defence think tanks that depend on the Ministry of Defence, such as IEEE, CESEDEN or Real Instituto Elcano, which organise and participate in conferences and symposiums about security and defence in some universities, but CSOs are not invited by the Ministry of Defence. Thus, there is no evidence of joint activities between the Ministry of Defence and CSOs.

Prior to the 2018-19 popular uprisings that resulted in the ouster of former President Bashir and his government, little information about Sudan’s defence policy or security strategy was publicly accessible [1]. While the 2005 constitution recognised press freedom, in reality, ‘authorities censor[ed] the media by confiscating newspapers and targeting journalists… [It] instructed editors not to cross certain ‘red lines’ in their coverage, which implie[d] not publishing articles which portray elections negatively, criticis[ing] the armed forces or the government’s economic policy, report[ing] low voter turnout, mention[ing] the situation in Darfur or the armed conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The government has also imposed severe restrictions on the operation and mandates of civil society organisations, and a number have been forcibly closed’ [2].

Transitional processes in 2018 and 2019 forced limited debate between members of the military council and the Forces for Freedom and Change, and included – indirectly, through protest and their representatives at negotiations – resistance committees, whose civic actions were at the root of Bashir’s eventual departure and the demands upon military leaders to work with civilians to form a transitional government. However, the government’s defence sector representatives only participated begrudgingly and, in 2020, the government once again increased its use of regulations and intimidation to restrict the media’s ability to facilitate civil society’s attempts to engage the government in discourse about defence issues [3,4].

Under Bashir’s rule, the government did not provide any meaningful information or communication about defence and security issues. Its self-publicised overtures to engage armed actors in a national dialogue, for example, were understood by Sudanese and international analysts alike to be empty, politically motivated gestures aimed at quelling criticism [1]. While the transitional government has made some information about defence and security processes known – such as the disempowerment of former officials of the defence sector and confiscation of their resources, as well as the progress towards peace agreements with armed actors in Darfur, the Two Areas and elsewhere – the information is shared selectively and does not usually invite debate, even from the civilian members of the transitional Sovereign Council. Even as the military leadership of the council announced the creation of a new governance body that included representatives drawn from the armed groups that participated in the Juba Peace Agreement, the civilian parties to the 2019 transitional constitution ultimately decried the new body as having been unconstitutionally established without consulting them [2].

Outside government, there is regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. Note can be made of the annual Folk & Försvar National Conference, to which senior figures from the defence establishment, politicians, industry representatives, the media, and some civil society organisations (CSOs) are invited [1], as well as the ‘Almedalen week’ at Gotland during which several public seminars are held on themes such as security policy and defence spending [2]. However, the dialogue and debates in these high-level forums tend to address issues somewhat superficially, without serious in-depth or sustained critique. For instance, whereas the Swedish peace movement has, for decades, addressed the political, legal, ethical, economic, and transparency issues related to Swedish arms trade [3], this is rarely a topic up for critical debate between the public and the defence establishment. Rather, the debate that does take place is typically performance or spending-oriented: how to improve national security, how to invest in defence materiel, how to make the SAF more efficient, etc.

As noted also in Q4C, the forums where defence issues are publicly debated – e.g. the Folk & Försvar conference – are generally very supportive of defence institutions and the expansion of their capabilities. The same can be said about the academic debate in Sweden, as the discourse in higher education institutions like the Swedish Defence University tends to be dominated by functionalist or ‘problem-solving’ perspectives on Swedish security and defence policy, rather than ‘critical’ ones [4]. In sum, the public debate on defence issues in Sweden is indeed regular, active, and well-covered by the media, but more lacking when it comes to taking seriously critical perspectives from CSOs and academia as well as engaging in in-depth, critical conversations about complex issues like Swedish arms export.

The government engages in regular discussion with the public about defence issues through open forums [1] [2] (see also Q3), as well as an active website and media briefings [3] [4].

There is regular public debate on issues of defence. Probably not at least also due to the fact that Switzerland’s military is by and large a conscription army, there are some CSOs that are entirely dedicated to defence issues, for example the “Group for a Switzerland without an Army” or the Officers Association (which technically is made up of civilians) [1, 2]. Some CSOs look specifically at arms exports [3]. The decentralized and federal nature of the Swiss system also allows CSOs to trigger debates with local opposition to military projects like the building or extension of military bases [4].

The campaign preceding a referendum involves the government, its position is defended typically by the Federal Council in charge (i.e. defence minister) in representatives of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) [1]. The 2016 Security Policy Report included hearings with experts on different topics for its preparation [2]. The report is public and debated in parliament. The militia system (i.e. non-professional parliament) means that members of parliament often also represent civil society organizations [3, 4, 5]. In addition, the government actively interacts with relevant think tanks on foreign, security and peace policy through the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) [6]. The FDFA co-organises roundtable discussions and projects on defence and security challenges with organisations such as the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) [7, 8] and Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) [9, 10].

Thinktanks serve as the crucial platform for regular public debate on issues of defence in Taiwan via public forums, conferences, symposiums, media coverages, journals, op-ed, and social media.

Thinktanks in Taiwan play an active role in defence policy dialogues, discussions, and debates and are usually funded by the government [1, 2, 3], political parties [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], or non-governmental organisations [11].

Public discussions and debates via thinktanks are vigorous and have a wide range of specialities from security environments, defence policy, military strategy, and resource allocations. Conclusions derived from these discussions and debates are often released by these thinktanks as formal policy papers.

Public debates and discussions surrounding defence policy in Taiwan are mainly fuelled by versatile partisan politics between the ruling party and the opposing parties. In practice, military officers and civilian officials of the MND are often invited to these public discussions and debates. In politics, military personnel and civilian officials from the defence or security sectors are obliged to be neutral and unbiased. In reality, actors and stakeholders from the governments tend to be more conserved or reluctant to engage in debates and discussions surrounding defence policy [1]. However, public discussions on defence and security issues in popular talk shows provide an alternative platform for interactions between the government and the public [2].

There is very limited space for public debate on defence matters in Tanzania. For instance, the journalist Azory Gwanda has been missing since November 2017, believed to have been kidnapped by the security forces for reporting on their in Kibiti District against armed extremists. [1]

Discussion is one way, and minimal. Engagement with news media through press conferences where probing questions are not tolerated, and mostly consist of very long statements, is typical of state engagement with the media in Tanzania. For the military, there is no obligation to give any information about strategy, doctrine, capability or deployment. [1]

Between 2014 and 2018, there was no evidence of any regular, active public debate on issues of defence and, since there was no elected government, there were no civil society organisations publicly involved in any matters of defence [1]. In 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, condemned the disturbingly high number of arrests and charges over public and social media expression under military orders and the Constitutional Referendum Act in Thailand [2]. After the 2019 general election, parliamentary debates returned to the country, but the censure debate in early 2020 demonstrated the failure of the two main opposition parties (the FFP, which was later dissolved, and a fragmented Pheu Thai) to stand in the way of Prayut’s government [3].

Nevertheless, the opposition extended the censure debate beyond parliament to nationwide forums to expose the government’s mismanagement of the country, whereby the six opposition parties agreed to organise mobile forums for the censure debate so that it did not end in parliament, for example, the criticism of the planned purchase of two submarines worth 22.5 billion baht which had been eventually ignored by the government [4,5]. Additionally, after the dissolution of FFP, a younger generation, based campuses and high schools across the nation, started to organise public debates against the government. Unfortunately, these public debates were short-lived due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, which hindered public gatherings [3].

Moreover, during the NCPO’s regime, US-based think tank Freedom House criticised the NCPO’s far-reaching bans on political association and activity and its systematic use of censorship and intimidation to suppress dissent in the press, in academia or online, demonstrating the lack of public debate on defence policy in Thailand [6]. Even during the general election in 2019, TV host Orawan Choodee was removed from the debate programme ‘Election War ’19’ after she allowed 100 students attending the televised debate on 28 February to voice their opposition to the NCPO government’s agenda [7]. After the election, the government of PM Prayut Chan-ocha finally released Thailand’s 2019–22 National Security Policy and Plan, which had long been prepared by the NCPO [8]. According to Nikkei Asian Review, this means Thailand’s ruling generals will ensure the country remains in their grip for at least the next 20 years through the implementation of the national strategy. Lawmakers described this move as the making of a ‘Thai-style military state’ as it rewrote the political landscape of the future to protect the military’s interests [9]. After the general election in 2019, a public discussion was finally conducted in parliament for the first time in five years [10].

Instead of actively engaging in public discourse about defence issues or equivalent, under five years of military rule, the Thai authorities prosecuted numerous peaceful critics of the government in order to stay in power, as reported by Human Rights Watch [1]. Even after the 2019 general election, the government led by Prayuth Cha-O-Cha essentially rejected allegations regarding its conspiracy with the multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal of Malaysia’s sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), without providing further evidence. The Prime Minister also threatened to sue the former spokeswoman of FFP, Pannika Wanich, who was later barred from politics [2]. However, where communication does occur, it is likely to be one-way; there have been a few cases in which the military has participated in a panel discussion, for example, the Future of Thai military reformat FCCT 2020 Panel Discussion [3].

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)

Outside government, there is occasional public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers and CSOs about defence issues. It should be noted that military subjects in Turkey have always been followed with interest by a large segment of the population, a factor that is seemingly explored by President Erdogan and which is currently being exploited for domestic political gain [1]. Critical voices in both Turkish academia and media are very rare and there are incessant attempts to silence them. For instance, Yavuz Selim Demirag, a reputable journalist known for his articles about corruptions in the defence industry, penned an article on October 18, 2019, entitled ‘Who is protecting BMC?’ [2], but this article was removed from the internet with a legal decree and an investigation was launched against him that ended with him being charged with disseminating ‘false’ content.

Articles by critical journalists who mainly write pieces about corruption in the defence/security sector, such as Cigdem Toker, Yavuz Selim Demirag and Ahmet Takan, critical defence industry experts, such as Levent Ozgul and Burak Ege Pekdil, or retired officers, such as Metin Gurcan, Ahmet Yavuz, Haldun Solmazturk and Levent Erturk, are usually smeared. Removing critical content from online sources or claims for compensation filed by bureaucrats and defence industry firms against the authors of critical content in order to tame/punish them are common practices in Turkey. Cigdem Toker, a leading journalist whose work mostly exposes corruption cases in the state, underlined in a interview that she has had 12 different legal cases in the past 12 years, 4 of which were initiated by pro-Erdogan defence industry firms due to her critical articles [3]. Part of Cigdem Toker’s latest Turkish book, entitled ‘Kamu Ihalelerinde Olagan Isler (Usual Jobs in Public Tenders) [4], partly touches on the extent to which secrecy and national security are useful concepts for killing public debate about defence procurement and asset disposal.

Article 24 of the Public Fiscal Management and Control Law [5] reads as follows: ‘Implicit allowance; closed intelligence and closed defence services are items put into the government’s budget, to be used for government requirements related to national security and the high interests of the State and the requirements of the State’s reputation, political, social and cultural purposes and extraordinary services’. This articles allow the government to brush all opaque areas of procurement and financial activities in the field of defence/security under the carpet of ‘secrecy and national security’. Any journalist or expert who wants to dig deeper into a case of defence procurement may easily be charged with violating Articles 325 and 326 of the Turkish Criminal Code (5237) [6]. These articles read as follows:

Political or military spying
ARTICLE 325- (1) Any person who tries to get secret information, especially about public security or the domestic and foreign political interests of the State with the intention of spying on political and military affairs, shall be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison.
(2) If the offence is committed:
a) to serve the interests of a country at war with Turkey or
b) during a war by putting the war preparations, fighting power or military movements of the Government in jeopardy,
the offender shall be sentenced to heavy life imprisonment.

Disclosure of information relating to public security or the political interests of the State
ARTICLE 326-(1) Any person who discloses secret information, especially about public security or the domestic and foreign political interests of the State, shall be sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison.
(2) If the offense is committed during wartime, or puts the war preparations, fighting power or military movements of the Government in jeopardy, the offender shall be sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison.
(3) If the offence is committed as a result of negligence of the offender, offence by risking the war preparations, or fighting power, or military movements of Government, the offender is sentenced to heavy life imprisonment.

Article 3 of thePublic Procurement Law [7] also states that: ‘Defence, security or intelligence or purchases of goods and services and construction works that are decided by the ministry or related to cases where special security measures must be taken during the execution of the contract in accordance with the legislation or that require the protection of fundamental interests related to State security should be executed in privacy’. Despite the fact that there is a solid legal framework for how to conduct defence procurement in Turkey, this Article ruins the principle of transparency and puts all defence procurement under the cover of secrecy, which has been exploited by the government. Merve Seren’s work on military spending, despite having a pro-government stance, provides a good perspective on how defence/security issues are addressed by civilian scholars [8].

The defence industry and defence/security-related issues are good tools for producing success stories for President Erdogan to divert public attention at a time of economic crisis [1]. Erdogan’s popular support drastically increased following Turkey’s military operations in Syria, Libya and Iraq. Success in the defence realm also offers political gain for Erdogan’s cabinet in matters of foreign policy. That is why, when communication does occur between the government and the public, it is likely to be one-way, in the form of propaganda and information that glorifies the government’s achievements for domestic political gain (e.g. propaganda produced by the pro-government think tank SETA) [2]. The debate on defence/security policy among the general public is limited.

However, new forms of home-grown technology are widely publicised by the mainstream media. The governement also organises ‘Technofest’ events to mobilise the production and usage of technologies (including electric cars, robotic technology, drones…) among university/high school students. This is a way to appeal to nationalist feelings, especially at a time when the country’s economic indicators are deteriorating. These are all governement strategies, which are not regular and avoid many factors (military spending, oversight, transparency), but definitely create a public discourse through online platforms, websites and programmes (e.g. YETEN Talent Inventory, EYDEP Industry Competency Assessment and Support Program, Visionary Youth, Defence Academy, etc) on an issue that is used as a black box [3].

Academics, journalists, CSOs and other actors, including politicians, political and security analysts, former security officers discuss defence issues amongst themselves regularly on talk shows on radio and TV [1, 2, 3] and in dialogues, seminars, and workshops. These debates or opinions including country review reports, books including the one authored by law professor Dr. Busingye Kabumba, Dan Ngabirano and Timothy Lepa, Munini Mulera, have largely condemned the brutality of the armed forces, corruption, among other issues in the sector [4, 5, 6]. However, most of these debates are usually about the actions and inactions of the military. However, there is a general feeling that the army will continue doing what it deems fit, regardless of public opinion or debate. For instance, Richard Karemire, the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) spokesperson told the Daily Monitor [1] that deployment of army officers in civilian institutions of civilian-led institutions “should not be seen as taking over as there is no need again having done so on January 26th, 1986, but rather as a reinforcement to provide accelerated services to our people in order to achieve social economic transformation. Therefore, let us not burn our energies on debates but instead focus on how to best build synergies to deliver what our people desire”.

The government engages in public discussions about defence issues on both public and private media platforms, some government officials participate on panel discussions and even talk shows [1, 2], while the communication officers or top officials hold media briefings, for instance, the Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola, General David Muhoozi the Chief of Defence Forces and Johnson Byabashaijja the Commissioner General of Prisons held a joint press conference in 2018 over the state of security in the country [3] and government institutions such as the police, the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs also have active websites that encourage interaction with visitors. However, these are what is considered official positions of the government, there are no clear answers to the public on certain important issues. Often, the government are not willing to discuss issues beyond the official positions.

Razumkov Centre and DCAF are the CSOs conducting roundtables and seminars on defence and security issues regularly involving academics, journalists, opinion-formers and CSOs as well as publishing in corresponding journals such as the National Security and Defence Journal [1, 2, 3]. The issues discussed are high priority and not superficial. For instance, they touch upon issues of defence production, sales and acquisitions, reform progress and challenges and human rights in the security sector [3]. Also, the OSCE organized the drafting and further discussion of the concept of democratic control over the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the expert community, NGOs and foreign partners. Several roundtables were organized on this issue [4].

There is evidence that government representatives (MoD, NSDC and state-owned defence enterprise officials) engage in discussion with the public on the issues of defence and security regularly [1,2]. Government officials often participate in these events but not to co-organize discussions or to set up joint media briefings. It should be noted that the government often does not discuss in-depth major defence policies with the public (like the Draft Law On National Security). Moreover, government representatives mostly ignore their positions and recommendations. However, CSOs believe indirect pressure via the media, civic protests, mobilizing public opinion and individual engagement with government officials to be most effective in promoting policy change [3].

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).

Outside government, there is regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues [1, 2, 3, 4]. Debate persists on high priority issues over a period of time, rather than being superficially addressed. This is exemplified by the fact that certain think tanks have research programmes dedicated to UK defence [1, 3], and that the media regularly addresses defence-related issues [2, 4].

The government engages in regular debate with academia, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues in collaborative ways. The government co-organises discussions with independent think tanks or civil society organisations, or through joint media briefings [1, 2]. Such discussions regularly take place at think tanks such as the Royal United Services Institute or Chatham House [1, 2].

Outside of the government, there is sustained debate on issues of defence by a wide range of academic, CSO and media organisations with specialist knowledge of the defence sector. The conversation is regular and addresses issues of all levels of importance. Particularly since the inauguration of President Trump, the media, academic and CSO critique of defence policies has been prominent. Defence-specific media organisations include: DefenseOne, Military Times and War on the Rocks [1,2,3]. Academic organisations include: Brookings, Centre for Strategic & International Studies and Foreign Policy [4,5,6].

The Department of Defense runs a public liasion programme, the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC), which is designed to share knowledge on national defence and the military [1]. The conference is held annually. With regard to public engagement, Brookings, for example, hosted the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in June 2019, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in May 2019 and the Chief of Naval Operations in January 2019. This suggests that interaction by senior military leaders with academic institutions is commonplace [2].

Public communication by the Department of Defense, however, has been limited under the Trump administration. In March 2017, then Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis encouraged DoD personnel and employees to avoid disclosure of information [3] and this was followed by a freeze on public affairs by the US Air Force [4]. This period was accompanied by a clampdown on public appearances by senior military leaders [5] and a period of almost a year without a televised Pentagon press briefing [6,7,8]. The news that the US was deploying a Navy carrier strike group to the Middle East in response to Iran, for example, was delivered to reporters via an email [6]. The lack of public engagement by the DoD (and the administration in general) has been noted in the media [8,9]. In 2018, it was revealed that the Pentagon ordered a clampdown on public appearances by senior military leaders and senior civilian Trump administration appointees [5]. Also in 2018, the US Air Force went through a retraining process with regard to public outreach, resulting in much higher clearance being needed for public communication [9]. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), an independent watchdog organisation that focusses on waste, corruption and abuses of power by the US government, put together a timeline documenting the changes to the Department of Defense (DoD) and national security policy that limited and undermined public access to information under Trump [10]. The timeline starts with memos sent in 2017 from then Defense Secretary Mattis, the Chief of Naval Operations and a Pentagon spokesman, all warning staff against ‘over-sharing’. Whilst there have been efforts to reverse this, made by the susbsequent Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper [11], public engagement remained a challenge for the DoD during the Trump administration.

Short-term issues relating to security crises, or events intercepted and repressed by security forces, are the subject of public debate among academics and military experts consulted by the national and international press. However, this debate is circumstantial – limited in the scope of available information and in terms of the participation of various sectors.

Given the degree of opacity in defence policy and in management of the security sector [1, 2], the little information that generates public debate is that which indicates a security threat or the use of excessive force. As part of announcements about security operations for the restoration of internal order, operations such as the Zamora Plan or the PLO generated discussions in which experts, social organisations, and academics spoke about their implementation [3, 4]. Likewise, in the current political crisis, the debate on the internal conditions of the FANB has comprised discussion not only in the national but also the international press [5, 6, 7]. However, these debates react to critical situations and are superficial in view of the fact that their knowledge of the situation is reliant upon unofficial sources that breed a high level of mistrust. In addition, political polarisation in Venezuela has restricted the possibility of inclusive participation in debate.

Although wider society is involved in public debates on a periodic basis, this is typically in response to emergency situations, and involves no substantial or long-term discussions on the government’s security decisions. Part of the superficiality of the debate is due to the country’s social and economic situation, which does not foster participation and keeps citizens constantly mobilised in order to obtain basic goods and services, thus distracting attention away from the debate on defence issues and from internal politics in general [8].

The government does not respond to public criticism, neither participating in discussions nor addressing criticised issues in its press releases. Officials in the Maduro regime have not participated in public debates and their releases are shared through media that have expressed support for the regime. Even statements that are given to international media – by Maduro or other members of the administration – have been criticised for the control of what information may or may not be published, as well as for the superficiality of the information offered [1, 2].

In terms of defence and security, there is no evidence of government engagement with or direct response to social organisations’ complaints about irregularities in the management of the armed forces [3, 4].

The role of the military in Zimbabwe’s politics and economy is arguably a major highlight in public debates. Activists, journalists and academics usually raise questions around the militarisation of the state, the involvement of the military in commercial activities, the role of the military in elections, deployment of the military internally and externally and appointment of military or ex-military personnel in state enterprises, etc. [1, 2, 3]. The debates have always been contentious because the military is seen as being deployed to prop up the ruling party while undermining the opposition, civil society groups and dissenters.

The government does not participate in public debates on matters of the security sector. Senior government officials shun public debating platforms on non-security issues, where stakes are relatively low in Zimbabwe; they even shun invitations for parliamentary hearings. Official statements are released on specific defence policy initiatives, for instance, decisions on their involvement in profit enterprise. There is limited capacity for the public to interrogate those decisions let alone verify the truthfulness of these policy pronouncements [1, 2, 3].

Country Sort by Country 6a. Public debate Sort By Subindicator 6b. Government engagement in public discourse Sort By Subindicator
Albania 25 / 100 25 / 100
Algeria 25 / 100 25 / 100
Angola 0 / 100 25 / 100
Argentina 75 / 100 50 / 100
Armenia 100 / 100 50 / 100
Australia 100 / 100 100 / 100
Azerbaijan 0 / 100 25 / 100
Bahrain 25 / 100 0 / 100
Bangladesh 25 / 100 25 / 100
Belgium 75 / 100 75 / 100
Bosnia and Herzegovina 25 / 100 25 / 100
Botswana 50 / 100 0 / 100
Brazil 75 / 100 25 / 100
Burkina Faso 50 / 100 0 / 100
Cameroon 25 / 100 25 / 100
Canada 50 / 100 25 / 100
Chile 25 / 100 50 / 100
China 50 / 100 50 / 100
Colombia 100 / 100 50 / 100
Cote d'Ivoire 50 / 100 50 / 100
Denmark 100 / 100 100 / 100
Egypt 0 / 100 25 / 100
Estonia 50 / 100 50 / 100
Finland 75 / 100 75 / 100
France 75 / 100 25 / 100
Germany 100 / 100 100 / 100
Ghana 25 / 100 50 / 100
Greece 100 / 100 50 / 100
Hungary 25 / 100 50 / 100
India 100 / 100 100 / 100
Indonesia 75 / 100 50 / 100
Iran 25 / 100 25 / 100
Iraq 50 / 100 25 / 100
Israel 75 / 100 50 / 100
Italy 75 / 100 50 / 100
Japan 75 / 100 75 / 100
Jordan 25 / 100 25 / 100
Kenya 75 / 100 50 / 100
Kosovo 75 / 100 25 / 100
Kuwait 50 / 100 25 / 100
Latvia 100 / 100 75 / 100
Lebanon 50 / 100 25 / 100
Lithuania 100 / 100 100 / 100
Malaysia 25 / 100 25 / 100
Mali 100 / 100 75 / 100
Mexico 100 / 100 50 / 100
Montenegro 25 / 100 50 / 100
Morocco 0 / 100 0 / 100
Myanmar 50 / 100 25 / 100
Netherlands 100 / 100 100 / 100
New Zealand 75 / 100 100 / 100
Niger 50 / 100 50 / 100
Nigeria 50 / 100 25 / 100
North Macedonia 75 / 100 75 / 100
Norway 75 / 100 100 / 100
Oman 0 / 100 0 / 100
Palestine 75 / 100 50 / 100
Philippines 50 / 100 50 / 100
Poland 100 / 100 50 / 100
Portugal 50 / 100 50 / 100
Qatar 25 / 100 25 / 100
Russia 100 / 100 25 / 100
Saudi Arabia 0 / 100 25 / 100
Serbia 75 / 100 25 / 100
Singapore 50 / 100 50 / 100
South Africa 75 / 100 75 / 100
South Korea 100 / 100 100 / 100
South Sudan 0 / 100 0 / 100
Spain 50 / 100 50 / 100
Sudan 25 / 100 25 / 100
Sweden 75 / 100 75 / 100
Switzerland 100 / 100 100 / 100
Taiwan 100 / 100 75 / 100
Tanzania 25 / 100 25 / 100
Thailand 0 / 100 25 / 100
Tunisia 25 / 100 50 / 100
Turkey 25 / 100 50 / 100
Uganda 75 / 100 50 / 100
Ukraine 100 / 100 50 / 100
United Arab Emirates 0 / 100 0 / 100
United Kingdom 100 / 100 100 / 100
United States 100 / 100 50 / 100
Venezuela 25 / 100 0 / 100
Zimbabwe 100 / 100 0 / 100

With thanks for support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have contributed to the Government Defence Integrity Index.

Transparency International Defence & Security is a global programme of Transparency International based within Transparency International UK.

Privacy Policy

UK Charity Number 1112842

All rights reserved Transparency International Defence & Security 2024