INEC Limits Media Access to Bayelsa Election Collation Centre

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 Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Several journalists, including major national newspapers and television stations, detailed by their organisations to cover the announcement of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the Bayelsa governorship polls, have been left stranded.

The commission said that of the over 100 known newspapers in the country covering the governorship election, it could only accommodate six.

On Sunday morning, the electoral body insisted that there was no provision for majority of the newspapers, later releasing of six, comprising five national and one local outfit, New Waves, owned by the state government.

The decision angered the media men, especially big organisations accredited for the coverage of the polls, but were disallowed from accessing the main hall.

Sunday’s development also raised questions about the general treatment of journalists in the country by many institutions of state, since the commission had over four years to prepare for the polls.

The electoral umpire said the space it intended to use was small and could only accommodate 120 persons, but the list released by the organisation showed that just six pressmen from print, six from television and eight from radio would be accommodated, making the entire list 20.

The collation at the state level is expected to start any moment from now, though the body said it wasn’t barring media men from the INEC premises.

Wilfred Ifogah, the Commission’s Head of Department, responding to questions as to why journalists, especially from major media houses were not allowed in, said he picked only those he could comfortably accommodate, although the aggrieved journalists maintained that there were much bigger halls than the Mahmood Yakubu hall, which is being used for the announcement within the INEC premises.

But Ifogah said that he was not barring the media from the event insisting that there will be canopies outside for those who wished to be around the commission’s office in Swali, Yenagoa, which the newsmen argued was not safer than other parts of the state capital, if the reason of choice of the place was because of security.

“I wish to inform that INEC is in no way barring journalists from the Collation Center. The hall size can barely accommodate 120 persons.

“Several Stakeholders are involved in the process not only journalists. We have made arrangements for canopies and chairs outside the hall for those not cleared to go in,” he said.