…As Guild of Editors Blast NASS
President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki says he is unaware of alleged new guidelines by National Assembly’s Director of Information, Emmanuel Agada, for accreditation of journalists covering the activities of the legislative arm.
Saraki, who stated this on Tuesday through his aide, Olu Onemola, Special Assistant on New Media, said the controversial guidelines would ”promptly be investigated.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the National Assembly management had in two separate letters released 20 stringent conditions for journalists and media houses’ accreditation.
In a tweet, Onemola said the senate president ”remains committed to the freedom of the press.”
He said Saraki’s antecedents as the chairman of the eight National Assembly showed that he has always believed in the right of journalists to operate unhindered in order to promote transparency.
The tweet reads: “The attention of the President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has just been drawn to a story that is circulating on 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 bring governance closer to the people through live streams and live tweets.
“This is because 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.
In a swift reaction, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has rejected the new guidelines for the accreditation of media organisations, journalists/ correspondents covering the National Assembly, describing it as primitive, undemocratic and blatantly anti-press and anti-people.
In a statement by its General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe, the Guild found the guidelines issued by authorities of the National Assembly (NASS), which is due to become effective from June 11, 2019, “vexatious, disrespectful and draconian. It is a scurrilous attempt to gag the press in a democracy and it cannot stand.”
“These guidelines run contrary to the grains of reason, democratic ideals and they are a clear affront on the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution which empowers journalists to freely practice their profession without any gag, muzzling and restriction.
“The NASS guidelines negate the constitutional principle of freedom of expression and run contrary to the African Charter on fundamental rights and the right of the people to know. The Guild strongly objects to these guidelines as they serve no public good except the myopic interest of its chroniclers and purveyors.
“The Guild urges all media houses across the nation to rise up and reject this medieval intrusion into the media space in the 21st century, much more in a democracy which Nigerian media doggedly fought for and for which some journalists paid the supreme price.
The offensive guidelines demands among other draconian provisions that a media organisation wishing to be accredited for coverage of NASS activities should submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.
Other requirements include “presentation of evidence of certificate of incorporation of the media organisation, evidence of membership of professional bodies for the journalists, maintenance of a functional Bureau in Abuja (staff strength not less than 5 Editorial staff) and daily circulation of 40,000 copies for the print media with evidence to support the claimed circulation figure.”