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The National Assembly management has issued new guidelines for the accreditation of journalists covering both senate and House of Representatives. The guidelines, issued by the Director of Information, Emmanuel Agada on Monday and circulated among the journalists, stipulated that all media organisations seeking accreditation must submit evidence of tax returns for the last two years prior to their request. This is coming barely three weeks to the expiration of the 8th National Assembly and the Proclamation and inauguration of the 9th Assembly as well as election of Principal Officers. The stringents conditions attached to the new guidelines have been described as draconian and attempt by the management to muzzle and stifle the press. A journalist who preferred to remain anonymous said that the new guidelines were in contrary to the provisions of section 22 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Section 22 stipulates that ” The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people ” He said that the guidelines are an affront to press freedom adding that journalists across the country will resist such guidelines. It was gathered that the leadership of the Senate are also privy to the new guidelines with view to limiting the access of the media in the coverage of the inauguration of ninth National Assembly. Findings revealed that senate President, Bukola Saraki has thrown his weight behind Senator Ali Ndume one of the contenders for the office of Senate President. Though he has not made it public. A source said that the National Assembly leadership is up to a game plan on the election of the principal officers of the nation’s number one law making body. The new guidelines as obtained by our correspondent: NEW GUIDELINES FOR THE ACCREDITATION OF MEDIA ORGANISATIONS, JOURNALISTS/ CORRESPONDENTS COVERING THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 1.0 Number of journalists/correspondents to be accredited for prints, electronic and online media for Senate and House of Representatives respectively. 1.1 Television – 1 Reporter and 1 Cameraman 1.2 Radio 1 Reporter 1.3 Independent Producers – 1 Reporter and 1 Cameramen 1.4 Online Media 1 Reporter and 1 Photographer CLASSIFICATION OF ACCREDITATION 2.1 Permanent Accreditation 2.2 Temporary Accreditation 2.3 Foreign/lnternational Media Houses 2.4 Freelance 3.0 REQUIREMENT FOR PERMANENT ACCREDITATION OF JOURNALISTS/CORRESPONDENTS FOR PRINT, ELECTRONIC AND ONLINE MEDIA ORGANISATIONS 3.1 Evidence of certificate of incorporation of the media organisation. 3.2 Evidence of membership of professional bodies for media organization. 3.3 Proof of membership of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) with registration number. 3.4 Code of certification from the National Library for the media organization. 3.5 Functional Bureau in Abuja (Staff Strength not less than 5 Editorial staff and daily circulation of 40,000 copies for the print media with evidence to support the claimed circulation figure. 3.6 Media Houses must be publishing daily and on weekend (Applicable to Online Media). 3.7 Re-certification form must be signed and endorsed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Media organization Bureau Chief, City Editor as the case may be. 3.8 The Media organization concerned must have experience of covering proceedings of the National Assembly for at least two (2) years before applying for permanent accreditation. 3.9 All media organization will submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years. 3.10 All online media must have at least 5000 viewership per day, the site must have been in operation for 5 years and provide satisfactory evidence to this effect with clippings of the news utilized (especially parliamentary news). 3.11 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). 3.12 All correspondents must attach photocopy of letter of appointment of the media organization on whose behalf request has been received for grant of accreditation. 3.13 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. 4.0 It is only Journalists and correspondence whose media organisations meet the above requirements for Permanent accreditation that will be entitled to carry National Assembly Identity Card/Membership of the respective Press Corp 5.0 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. 6.0 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. 7.0 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. 8.0 All permanently accredited journalists/correspondents shall submit recertification letter from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of their media organization on a sessional basis failure to which accreditation shall be withdrawn forthwith. 9.0 All accredited media organization will be considered as a single entity in the issuance of passes irrespective of their membership of Senate and House of Representatives Press Corp. 10.0 This new accreditation guidelines shall come into effect from June 11 2019. Nigerian Guild Of Editor’s React The Nigerian Guild of Editors has branded as “draconian, vexatious and disrespectful” the new accreditation guidelines for media houses that wish to cover activities of the National Assembly. The National Assembly had asked that any media organization wishing to be accredited for NASS activities should “submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years, presentation of evidence of certificate of incorporation of the media organization, evidence of membership of professional bodies for the journalists, maintenance of a 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” Rejecting the criteria, the Editors body stated that the move is a scurrilous attempt to gag the press while avowing that the decision cannot stand. Mary Atolagbe, General Secretary of NGE, in a statement noted that the guidelines also negate the constitutional principle of freedom of expression and is contrary to the African Charter on fundamental rights and the right of the people to know. Atolagbe 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.” Atolagbe also asserted that the guidelines issued by the NGE would serve no public good but only the myopic interest of its chroniclers. She said that the NGE outrightly reject the criteria while urging all media houses to rise up and rebuff the “medieval intrusion into the media space” in a democratic country like Nigeria where the “media doggedly fought for and for which some journalists paid the supreme price.” The guidelines issued by the authority of the NASS is due to become effective from June 11, 2019.