The National Assembly on Monday issued stringent requirements it said media organizations must comply with before they can be accredited to cover its activities.
The conditions will further deepen intrigues in the lead-up to the inauguration of the ninth National Assembly.
According to the new guidelines, media organizations and journalists will not be allowed to cover the inauguration and subsequent activities of the Assembly unless they comply with conditions for fresh accreditation before June 11, 2019 which is the day of the induction.
A statement issued by the Director of Information at the National Assembly, Agada Rawlings Emmanuel said that a media organization must submit a copy of its income tax returns for the last two years.
“A newspaper house must also show evidence that it circulates at least 40,000 copies daily. Others include proof that the organization must have a certificate of incorporation, membership of professional bodies for media organizations, proof of membership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) backed by registration number and a code of certification from the National Library.
“Furthermore, media organizations must have a 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. Media houses must be publishing daily and on weekends (applicable to online media).”
“Media organizations must have had experience covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two years before applying for a permanent accreditation.
“All online media must have at least 5000 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).
“Only television stations with national coverage and specific independent producers with current running programmes on the National Assembly will be allowed access into the chambers on a permanent basis (all the production crew will be accredited as an entity).
“All correspondents must attach photocopies of letters of appointment of the media organization on whose behalf the request has been received for accreditation.
“All freelance journalists seeking permanent accreditation must show evidence of not less than five years coverage of the National Assembly’s proceedings, full editorial focus and publication on parliamentary reportage,” the statement read.
The National Assembly equally stated that only journalists and correspondents whose organizations meet the above requirements for permanent accreditation would be entitled to National Assembly identity cards/membership of the press corps.
“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 recommendation from the foreign affairs ministry.
“With these new guidelines in place, all previous accreditations granted to journalists covering the National Assembly will lapse with the dissolution of the Eighth Assembly,” it added.
Reacting to the development, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) in a statement signed by its General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe rejected the new guidelines, describing them as primitive, undemocratic, blatantly anti-press and anti-people.
The statement read: “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 National Assembly 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 eighth 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 the Nigerian media doggedly fought for and for which some journalists paid the supreme price.”