Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Senate has announced the further reduction of television cameramen covering the proceedings of the upper legislative chamber from 13 to 6, a decision which led to the boycott of thursday proceedings by all press corps television cameramen.
The television stations approved by the Senate bureaucracy are the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Africa Independent Television (AIT), Channels Television, Silverbird Television and in-house New Age Television.
The development is coming a day after the World Press Freedom day, where Senate President, Bukola Saraki, addressed the members of the Senate Press Corps at the press centre, and assured them of all necessary cooperation in the discharge of their duties.
The Chairman of the Senate Press Corp, Mr. Cosmas Ekpunobi, in a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi, brought the matter to notice of the attention of the leadership of the Senate.
Ekpunobi recalled that at a recent meeting, the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewo, had raised issues of misconduct among some press corps members.
â€œThe leadership of the Senate Press Corps however accepted to call our erring members to order and get back to the Clerk for further action. We expected the Clerk to also rescind his decision pending the outcome of our meeting with the cameramen today,â€ he said.
He added that similar attempts to restrict the number of cameramen covering the proceedings of the House of Representatives was resolved through dialogue.
â€œWe do not also want to subscribe to certain insinuations in some quarters that the new policy is another step to gag journalists covering the upper chamber especially as the Senate President paid us a visit last Wednesday to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day,â€
According to him, â€œWe have been repeatedly told that there is no parliament in the world where cameramen are allowed into the chamber. But we are also aware that such chambers, as mentioned, have functional central pool units where professional and experienced broadcast cameramen using latest television technologies such as Ultra High Definition (HD) cameras operate to deliver quality feeds. And until such equipment are installed with the requisite broadcast professionals to man them, we plead for a stay of execution.â€
Ekpunobi urged the Senate spokesperson to intervene to avert unnecessary friction between the media and the National Assembly.
The senate spokesman, Senator Abdullahi, could not be reached for comment.
The deputy spokesman, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, also did not respond to an enquiring by text message.