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Saraki, Dogara disown NASS accreditation guidelines for journalists



Saraki, Dogara disown NASS accreditation guidelines for journalists

Senate President orders probe of offensive rules

lSERAP threatens to drag Saraki, Dogara to court



The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday, ordered for immediate investigation into the issuance of draconian guidelines by management of the National Assembly for fresh accreditation of journalists.

Saraki, in a statement released by his aide on social media, Olu Onemola, said that the obnoxious guidelines were rolled out by the National Assembly bureaucrats without the knowledge of its political leadership.
He noted that the guidelines, which had attracted widespread condemnations from several quarters, negated his belief and commitment to allowing for unhindered operation of the media.

The statement reads: “The attention of the President of the Senate, Dr. 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 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.”

It was also learnt yesterday that in a bid to unravel the circumstances that led to the emergence of the accreditation guidelines, Saraki has written to the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, regarding the need to brief the political leadership of the National Assembly on the matter.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, also denied knowledge of the accreditation guidelines which were issued by the National Assembly management.

Although no official statement has been released 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 it.
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 fresh accreditation guidelines released by the National Assembly on Monday had stipulated, among others, that every media organization should 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 media organization; proof of membership of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) with registration number and code of certification from the National Library for the media organization.
The press release also made it clear that “with this 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 fact that media organizations must have “functional Bureau in Abuja with staff strength of not less than five editorial staff 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 weekend (Applicable to Online Media).”
Also, the media organization concerned must have experience of covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two years before applying for permanent accreditation etc.

Other conditions stated in the obnoxious guidelines were 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 utilized (especially parliamentary news).
Meanwhile, a rights organization, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the leadership and management of the National Assembly to immediately withdraw the accreditation guidelines released on Sunday for media coverage of the activities of the 9th assembly.
The organization, in a statement issued yesterday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said it will pursue national and international legal action if the ‘unlawful guidelines’ is not withdrawn by Friday.

It called on Saraki and Dogara to ensure that journalists are not in any way prevented from covering the activities of the National Assembly and its members.
SERAP alleged that the accreditation guidelines were designed deliberately as barriers against transparency and accountability and amount to a blatant violation of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information and media freedom.

“The accreditation guidelines clearly run counter to constitutional provisions and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and the notion of free marketplace of ideas, necessary to serve the best interests of the public.

“Our constitutional democracy rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society,” he said.

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