Deji Elumoye in Abuja
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has ordered a probe into Monday’s release of fresh accreditation guidelines for journalists covering the parliament by the management of the National Assembly without the knowledge of the leadership of the Assembly.
Saraki, in a statement released yesterday by his social media aide, Mr. Olu Onemola, said the guidelines which have attracted widespread condemnations from several quarters, negated his belief and commitment to allowing for unhindered operation of the media.
According to the release, “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,” the statement added.
THISDAY 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, Ataba Sani-Omolori, on the need for him to brief the political leadership of the National Assembly on the matter.
THISDAY further learnt yesterday that the management of the Assembly might have suspended the re-accreditation of journalists covering the National Assembly by withdrawing the guidelines because of the criticism that followed the release.
Although no official statement has been released to that effect, the Clerk of the National Assembly was said to have directed the Information Director, Mr. Emmanuel Agada, who signed the guidelines to withdraw it forthwith.
The new accreditation guidelines released by the National Assembly on Monday had stipulated among others that media organizations must submit copies of their 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 organisation; Proof of membership of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) with registration number and Code of certification from the National Library for the media organisation.
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 organisations 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)”
The media organisation concerned must also have experience of covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two years before applying for permanent accreditation.
Other conditions include: “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).
“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 photocopy of letter of appointment of the media organisation 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 correspondence 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 Corp.
“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.”