The Clerks of the Assembly have been visiting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and other agencies for some investigations, and it is believed the ‘satanic guidelines’ rolled out by the National Assembly were prepared and forced down the throats of the bureaucrats as a ‘plea bargain’.
Whatever, the Nigerian Guild of Editors was unapologetic in bashing the bureaucracy of the National Assembly. It rejected outrightly the guidelines which includes requiring tax clearance before journalists can cover the nation’s legislature.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was miffed.
His spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu, was unsparing in his words: ‘This is absolute nonsense (pardon my choice of word). I don’t want to believe this story until I speak with the CNA who is the head of the bureaucracy.
‘This is a demonstration of the fact that the political leadership of NASS do not decide most of the things that happen there. This is definitely news to me even as head of the media team of the Chairman of the National Assembly.
“It is perhaps a new policy that will be in force from June 11 when the new NASS will be inaugurated. In any case, I will still try to give advice to the relevant people on an issue which I consider as bordering on press freedom and access to information.’
The guild of editor’s head, Funke Egbemode, stated: ‘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.
‘The guidelines issued by authorities of the National Assembly (NASS) is due to become effective from June 11 2019. It 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.”
‘The Guild finds this 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 in their entirety as they serve no public good except the myopic interest of its chroniclers and purveyors.
‘The Guild is disappointed that the same 8th National Assembly which benefited immensely from free press in its moments of trial has turned round to put the same press in shackles and chains. We reject this crude abrasion of our constitutional rights to freely disseminate information. It cannot stand.
‘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.
But there are those who think the Assembly may have finally decided to end the career of fake Journalists strolling around the complex, by releasing The stringent guidelines.
The political arm of the lawmaking body is livid by the attempt to stifle journalist’s, which many suspect is a grand plan to tweak the emergence of preferred leaders.
This is coming barely two weeks to the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly.
In a guideline released by the management on Monday and signed by the Director of Information, Mr. Emmanuel Rawlings Agada, the NASS requested for fresh application letter from Journalists intending to cover the plenary.
The management among other things, requested for evidence of Income tax return from Media organisations as a prerequisite for accreditation.
The guideline also stimulates that media houses would only be entitled to one accreditation for both chambers except for those that require a photographer or videographer.
For the online media, the management said it would only accredit those who have up to 5000 viewers or hit per day; those who are up to 5 years in existence and those whose staffers in Abuja are up to 5.
It also classifies accreditation of Journalists into permanent, temporary, foreign/international media and Freelancers with proof of membership of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and National Library registration as criteria.
Read below the guidelines as obtained by our correspondent:
NEW GUIDELINES FOR THE ACCREDITATION OF MEDIA ORGANISATIONS, JOURNALISTS/ CORRESPONDENTS COVERING THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
1.0 Number of journalists/correspondents to be accredited for prints, electronic and online media for Senate and House of Representatives respectively.
1.1 Television – 1 Reporter and 1 Cameraman
1.2 Radio 1 Reporter
1.3 Independent Producers – 1 Reporter and 1 Cameramen
1.4 Online Media 1 Reporter and 1 Photographer
CLASSIFICATION OF ACCREDITATION
2.1 Permanent Accreditation 2.2 Temporary Accreditation
2.3 Foreign/lnternational Media Houses 2.4 Freelance
3.0 REQUIREMENT FOR PERMANENT ACCREDITATION OF JOURNALISTS/CORRESPONDENTS FOR PRINT, ELECTRONIC AND ONLINE MEDIA ORGANISATIONS
3.1 Evidence of certificate of incorporation of the media organisation.
3.2 Evidence of membership of professional bodies for media organization.
3.3 Proof of membership of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) with registration number.
3.4 Code of certification from the National Library for the media organization.
3.5 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.
3.6 Media Houses must be publishing daily and on weekend (Applicable to Online Media).
3.7 Re-certification form must be signed and endorsed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Media organization Bureau Chief, City Editor as the case may be.
3.8 The Media organization concerned must have experience of covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two (2) years before applying for permanent accreditation.
3.9 All media organization will submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.
3.10 All online media must have at least 5000 viewership per day, the site must have been in operation for 5 years and provide satisfactory evidence to this effect with clippings of the news utilized (especially parliamentary news).
3.11 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).
3.12 All correspondents must attach photocopy of letter of appointment of the media organization on whose behalf request has been received for grant of accreditation.
3.13 All freelance journalist seeking permanent accreditation must show evidence of not less than 5 years coverage of the National Assembly proceedings/full editorial focus and publication on parliamentary reportage.
4.0 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
5.0 All other media organization who do not meet the above requirement will be captured under the Temporary accreditation status and they will not be entitled to carry National Assembly Identity Card/Membership of the Press Corp of the Senate and House of Representatives.
6.0 All Temporary accredited media houses, journalists/correspondents shall be allowed permit into the National Assembly for specific coverage not exceeding one (1) week in the first instance and not more than twice in a month.
7.0 All foreign/international media houses seeking accreditation shall abide by all the Diplomatic Protocols established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for foreign media organizations, the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists and security clearance before accreditation will be considered upon the recommendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
8.0 All permanently accredited journalists/correspondents shall submit recertification letter from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of their media organization on a sessional basis failure to which accreditation shall be withdrawn forthwith.
9.0 All accredited media organization will be considered as a single entity in the issuance of passes irrespective of their membership of Senate and House of Representatives Press Corp.
10.0 This new accreditation guidelines shall come into effect from June 11 2019.