Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

NASS drops ‘draconian’ guidelines for journalists, probes initiators

The leadership of the National Assembly has withdrawn the controversial accreditation guidelines for journalists wishing cover the 9th Assembly as released earlier this week, following the protests by the stakeholders in the media industry over the stringent conditions for covering activities of the National Assembly.

Although no official statement has been released to that effect, it was learnt that the Clerk of the National Assembly has directed the Information Director, Agada Rawlings Emmanuel, who signed the document containing the earlier ‘stringent’ guidelines, to immediately withdraw it.

A team of National Assembly officials, comprising Emmanuel and other senior staff, had been raised to work out more acceptable guidelines for the accreditation.

It was learnt that Senate President Bukola Saraki has ordered an immediate investigation into the drafting and release of the draconian guidelines.

The directive was contained in a statement issued by his aide in charge of social media, Olu Onemola, on Tuesday, adding that Saraki said the requirements, which were drafted and made public without the knowledge of the political leadership of the National Assembly, negated his belief and commitment to allowing unhindered operation of the media.

READ ALSO: JUST IN: Buhari asks ministers to continue in office till next Tuesday

It was also learnt that in a bid to unravel the circumstances that led to the emergence of the stringent conditions, which have attracted widespread condemnations from several quarters, Saraki has written to the clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Ataba Sani Omolori, to brief the political leadership of the legislature on the matter.

According to Saraki, even the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has denied knowledge of the guidelines.

The statement by Saraki on the need for investigation of the matter read in part: “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.” A group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), had urged the National Assembly to immediately withdraw the repressive guidelines or face legal action.

SERAP, in a statement by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “Nigerians expect the leadership of the National Assembly to show a greater level of transparency and accountability and to explain and take responsibility for what they are doing rather than implicitly banning journalists from covering their public functions.

”Implementing the ‘accreditation guidelines’ would allow the lawmakers to escape accountability for their constitutional functions.”

The group urged Saraki and Dogara to “open the windows and let in the daylight of the National Assembly by immediately withdrawing the accreditation guidelines and allowing journalists to freely cover the activities of leadership and members of the National Assembly.”

READ ALSO: ‘Danger still living with us’ — Shehu Sani speaks on Kaduna church attack

The organisation said it would pursue national and international legal action if the unlawful guidelines are not withdrawn by Friday, May 24.”

The fresh guidelines released by the National Assembly on Monday had stipulated, among others, that each media organisation would submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.

Also, every newspaper house must show evidence that it circulates at least 40,000 copies daily before qualifying for accreditation”, it added.