U.S. sets up television station in Nigeria to combat Boko Haram

Work on the project started in 2013.

The United States Government is financing a new  24-hour satellite television channel in northern Nigeria as part of its widening campaign against Boko Haram,the New York Times has reported.

The channel, which will be named Arewa24 when it starts broadcasting, will aim at countering the extremist influence and message of Boko Haram.

The violent sect has killed more than 12,000 people in five years, President Goodluck Jonathan said in May.

Boko Haram only drew a huge international attention after it  abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State.

The U.S, as well as France, Britain, Israel, is already helping with the search for the girls kidnapped April 14.

The U.S. has also designated Boko Haram a terrorist organization, and has placed a $7 million bounty on Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader.

The New York Times said the television project is financed by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, and it is expected to cost about $6 million (N960 million).

The paper said the project started in 2013 and is run by Equal Access International, a San Francisco-based government contractor that has managed similar media programs sponsored by the State Department in Yemen and Pakistan.

Work on the project is nearing completion, but broadcasts have not yet begun, the report said, quoting U.S. officials informed about the plan.

The officials said the Nigerian Government is aware of the programme, which seeks to  encourage youth participation in politics, in addition to countering Islamist extremism.

The sources added that the Nigerian Government did not plan to hide the American support for the TV channel when it eventually comes on stream.

But they said the U.S. was not planning to hype its participation in the project.

When functional, the channel will provide original content, including comedies and children’s programs that will be created,developed and produced by Nigerians. The aim is to provide an alternative to the violent propaganda and recruitment efforts of Boko Haram.

The Times quoted documents showing that the television channel is to target youths, “either subtly or explicitly,” with Hausa-language programs that deliver “themes that reject political violence and violent extremism,” but do not include “news or political reporting.”

The State Department is expected to finance the channel for two years.

The U.S. already has a media presence in northern Nigeria which is Voice of America, Hausa-service.

Under the new plan, in addition to the broadcasts, the project would provide training to journalists in the region, including women, who would then be able to produce their own video content, the Times said.


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