Amid widespread protests, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has ordered an immediate investigation into the tough accreditation guidelines for journalists and media houses issued by National Assembly bureaucracy without the knowledge of the leadership of the National Assembly.
In a statement released yesterday by his special assistant on social media, Olu Onemola, Saraki said that the guidelines which have attracted widespread condemnation from several quarters negated his belief and commitment to free press.
A source in the Senate told LEADERSHIP that in a bid to unravel the circumstances that led to the sudden issuance of the accreditation guidelines described in some quarters as “satanic”, Saraki had asked the clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori, to brief the NASS leadership on the matter.
Following the outrage trailing the release of the guidelines, Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, have denied knowledge of the fresh rules.
The statement by Saraki on the need for investigation of the matter reads: “The attention of the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has just been drawn to a story that is circulating on the social media about the National Assembly issuing new guidelines to journalists.
“These alleged guidelines have not emanated from either the Senate President or the Speaker, and will be promptly investigated. The public should note that the 8th National Assembly has been committed to the freedom of the press as exemplified by its work to bringing governance closer to the people through live streams and live tweets.
“The leadership of the 8th National Assembly believes strongly in the freedom of the press and in carrying the Nigerian public along. Hence, the Senate President and all his colleagues will continue to work to ensure that these freedoms remain unhindered.”
LEADERSHIP, however, learnt that a motion prepared to condemn the development on the floor of the Senate suffered a setback as the senator who was to move it fenced away.
The senator who is from one of the North Central states and a staunch member of Senator Ahmed Lawan’s camp left the National Assembly to avoid moving the motion to condemn the action which many viewed to be in the interest of Lawan’s quest for Senate presidency.
Meanwhile, indication have emerged that the management of the National Assembly has suspended the stringent accreditation and withdrawn the guidelines because of the public outcry that greeted it.
Although no official statement was isseud to that effect, the National Assembly clerk was said to have directed the information director, Agada Rawlings Emmanuel, who signed the guidelines, to immediately withdraw them.
A team of National Assembly officials comprising Emmanuel and other senior staff has been set up to work out more acceptable guidelines for the accreditation which, it was learnt, has been suspended.
The guidelines released by the National Assembly on Monday had stipulated among others that a media organisation would submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.
Also, a newspaper house must show evidence that it circulates at least 40,000 copies daily before qualifying for accreditation.
Other conditions include evidence of certificate of incorporation of the media organisation; evidence of membership of professional bodies for the media organisation; proof of membership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) with registration number and code of certification from the National Library for the media outfit.
The press release made it clear that “with these new guidelines in place, all previous accreditation granted to journalists covering the National Assembly will lapse with the dissolution of the 8th Assembly.”
The accreditation requirements also included the that media organisations must have “functional bureau in Abuja with a staff Strength of not less than five Editorial personnel as well as daily circulation of 40,000 copies for the print media with evidence to support the claimed circulation figure.
The conditions also stated that” media houses must be publishing daily and on weekends (applicable to online media)”
Also, the media organisation concerned must have experience of covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two years before applying for permanent accreditation.
The list of conditions continued: ‘’That all online media must have at least 5,000 viewership per day, the site must have been in operation for five years and provide satisfactory evidence to this effect with clippings of the news utilised (especially parliamentary news).
“That only television stations with national coverage and specific independent producers with current running programme on the National Assembly will be allowed access into the chambers on a permanent basis (all the production crew will be accredited as entity).
‘’All correspondents must attach photocopies of letters of appointment of the media organisations on whose behalf request has been received for grant of accreditation.
“All freelance journalists seeking permanent accreditation must show evidence of not less than five years coverage of the National Assembly proceedings/full editorial focus and publication on parliamentary reportage.”
The National Assembly equally stated that it is only journalists and correspondents whose media organisations meet the above requirements for permanent accreditation that will be entitled to carry National Assembly identity card/membership of the respective Press Corps.
Also, “all foreign/international media houses seeking accreditation shall abide by all the diplomatic protocols established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for foreign media organisations, the code of ethics for Nigerian journalists and security clearance before accreditation will be considered upon the recommendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
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