Published On: Wed, May 22nd, 2019

Anti-press policy: Saraki summons NASS Clerk as NGE rejects guidelines

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By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has reportedly summoned the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Omolori, over the draconian new guidelines which the management of the parliament has rolled out, which will bar many media houses and journalists from gaining entrance to cover the proceedings of the chambers.
However, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Omolori, has denied having a hand in the attempt to gag the media on its coverage of the federal legislature, a source has revealed.
The management of the National Assembly had drawn condemnations from Nigerians including the office of the Senate President, Guild of Editors, Constitutional Lawyers, NUJ and others when a memo signed by the Director of Information of the national assembly, Agada Rawlings, surfaced with a list of threshold Media houses and their journalists must meet before accreditation.
Many Nigerians who reacted to the development regarded the demands as draconian and unrealialistic.
Although, the management has reportedly backed down on the move, a credible source who was did not want his name in print disclosed to this our correspondent that the Clerk had denied knowledge of the memo.
The Clerk was said to have viewed Mr Rawlings “unilateral move” as a ploy to put him on collision course with the Media who he described as “necessary ingredients for a democracy to thrive.”
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) yesterday 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 A source close to the leadership of the Senate, who pleaded to be anonymous, confided in our correspondent that the Senate President was deeply disturbed by the breaking of the news on the new stringentpolicy which made news headline in most media houses and newspapers.
A statement issued by the Special Assistant to the Senate President on Social Media, Olu Onemola, has said that the President of the Senate, yesterday ordered immediate investigation into the issuance of draconian guidelines by management of the National Assembly for fresh accreditation of journalists.
The statement said that the obnoxious guidelines were rolled out by the National Assembly bureaucrats without the knowledge of its political leadership.
He noted that the guidelines which had attracted widespread condemnations from several quarters, negated his belief and commitment to allowing for unhindered operation of the media.
The statement reads “The attention of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has just been drawn to a story that is circulating on social media about the National Assembly issuing new guidelines to journalists.
“These alleged guidelines have not emanated from either the Senate President or the Speaker, and will be promptly investigated.
“The public should note that the 8th National Assembly has been committed to the freedom of the press as exemplified by its work to bringing governance closer to the people through live streams and live tweets.
“The leadership of the 8th National Assembly believes strongly in the freedom of the press and in carrying the Nigerian public along. Hence, the Senate President and all his colleagues will continue to work to ensure that these freedoms remain unhindered”.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, also denied knowledge of the accreditation guidelines which were issued by the National Assembly management.
Although no official statement has been released to that effect, the National Assembly Clerk was said to have directed the Information Director, Agada Rawlings Emmanuel, who signed the guidelines to immediately withdraw it.
The Guild of Editors said it finds this vexatious, disrespectful and draconian. It is a scurrilous attempt to gag the press in a democracy and it cannot stand.
It said, “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 around 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.

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