GOCOP, in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Olumide Iyanda on Tuesday, described the new guidelines which are due to be effected from June 11, 2019, when the ninth National Assembly will be inaugurated, as a brazen violation of press freedom.
The new guidelines as announced by NASS management on include such requirements that a media organisation seeking accreditation must have a functional bureau in Abuja with staff strength of not less than five editorial staff and daily circulation of 40,000 copies for the print media with evidence to support the figure.
Other requirements included are: “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 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.”
These guidelines, according to GOCOP, do not only betray an attempt to gag the press and disrespect for the Nigerian constitution, they also expose a National Assembly that is ignorant of the operations and impact of the media in the 21st century.
GOCOP called on the leadership of the National Assembly to immediately reject the implementation of the guidelines, while calling on all media organisations and lovers of a free press to stand against any attack on the universally recognised freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, Olu Onemola, the Special Assistant on New Media to Senate President Bukola Saraki, has stated that his principal remained committed to press freedom and hinted that NASS management might investigate the circumstances leading to issuance of the new guidelines.
Responding in a series of tweets about the new guidelines, Onemola stated that Saraki’s antecedents as the Chairman of the 8th National Assembly showed that he has always believed in the right of journalists to operate unhindered in order to promote transparency.
The New Media aide also emphasised that the purported issuance of the controversial guidelines would be promptly investigated.
“The attention of the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar 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 bring governance closer to the people through live streams and live tweets.
“This is because 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,” Onemola said.https://twitter.com/onemolaolu/status/1130603562977964033?s=21