New guidelines for the accreditation of journalists at the National Assembly have been condemned by journalists and editors.
Some of those who have reacted to the guidelines are the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The management of the legislative chamber on Monday released a lengthy guideline for correspondents and media organisations covering the National Assembly.
Part of its requirements for permanent accreditation is that a media organisation will submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.
The new guidelines, expected to take effect from June 11, also requires functional bureau in Abuja (staff strength not less than five editorial staff) and daily circulation of 40,000 copies for the print media with evidence to support the claimed circulation figure.
According to the management, all online media must have at least 5000 viewership per day and the site must have been in operation for five years and provide satisfactory evidence to this effect with clippings of the news utilised (especially parliamentary news).
Other requirements include evidence of certificate of incorporation of the media organisation as well as membership of professional bodies for media organisation including the NUJ.
“The media organisations concerned must have experience of covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two (2) years before applying for permanent accreditation.
“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 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,” part of the guidelines read.
The management further said only journalists whose media organisations meet the above requirements for Permanent accreditation will be entitled to carry National Assembly Identity Card/Membership of the respective Press Corp.
“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.
“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.
“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,” it said.
NGE rejects guidelines
In its reaction, the NGE rejected the new guidelines, describing it as primitive, undemocratic and blatantly anti-press and anti-people.
It said the demand for an organisation’s income tax return for the last two years is “draconian”.
The group further said the demands are disrespectful and an attempt to gag the press in a democracy.
“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 statement read in part.
The guild urged 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.”
The NUJ has also rejected the new accreditation guidelines, Punch Newspaper reports.
The body asked the National Assembly to withdraw what it described as satanic guidelines within 24 hours.
It said it was surprising that the Assembly that was supposed to defend and promote the nation’s democracy “is gagging it.”
National President of the union, Christopher Iziguzo, said the action of the Assembly was against the spirit of a free press.
“We have given the National Assembly 24-hours within which to withdraw the satanic guidelines. The guidelines are meant to stifle the press. We will not accept it.
“It is unfortunate that this is coming from the National Assembly that we are all expecting to promote democracy.
“Its action is against the spirit of a free press and we will not accept it. It is sad that the lawmakers will allow this to come from them,” he said.