*Pegs daily circulation figure to 40,000 for newspapers; 5,000 viewership for for online medium
*Bars TV stations without programme on legislature
*Demands copies of 2yrs income tax return
*Press Corps protest, insist it’s ploy to gag the press
By Ignatius Okorocha
Barely three weeks to the inauguration of 9th National Assembly, its management, yesterday, began the process of shutting out journalists from covering the activities of the federal legislature when it rolled out new guidelines for their accreditations with stringent conditions.
This is even as the Senate Press Corps, SPC, protested the action of the management, saying it “suppresses press freedom and the ethos of parliamentary democracy which the Senate Press has over the years strived to uphold”.
The management, in a press release signed by the Director of Information, Mr. Agada Rawlings Emmanuel, stated that the new guidelines take effect from June 11, adding that all previous accreditation “will lapse with the dissolution of 8th Assembly”.
It warned all journalists or correspondents covering the National Assembly to “do the needful by getting a fresh letter of recertification from their media organizations in line with the requirement of the new guidelines to facilitate the earliest reaccreditation process before the commencement of the 9th Assembly”.
Requirement for permanent accreditation, according to the statement, include evidence of certificate of incorporation of media organisations, membership of professional bodies, especially the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ with registration number and code of certification from the National Library for media organisations.
Others are “functional Bureau in Abuja with 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” and that the media houses, including online must be publishing daily and on weekends.
It also listed that recertification form must be signed and endorsed by the Chief Executive of media organisations -Bureau Chief, City Editor as the case may be, while the organisations concerned must have experience in covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two years before applying for permanent accreditation.
“All media organisations will submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.
“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 utilised (especially parliamentary news).
“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 an entity)”, it stressed.
The management warned that “only journalists and correspondents whose organisations meet the above requirements for permanent accreditation will be entitled to carry National Assembly identity cards/membership of the respective press corps”.
It added that all foreign media houses seeking accreditation must abide by all the diplomatic protocols established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, code of ethics for Nigerian journalists security clearance before consideration upon the recommendation from the ministry.
Reacting, chairman of the Senate Press Corps, Mr. Ezrel Tabiowo, condemned the action, describing it as act of intimidation against journalists assigned to cover National Assembly.
Tabiowo said: “The body has over the years ensured that only credible media houses and professional journalists are accredited to be members so as to shut out quacks that may give the profession a bad name”.
He noted that the attempt by the National Assembly to gag press with the new guidelines contradicts the provisions of Section 22 of the Constitution as amended which empowers the media to hold government accountable to the people.