National Assembly bows to pressure, drops media restrictions

National Assembly bows to pressure, drops media restrictions

- NASS has finally dropped media restrictions ahead of the inauguration of 9th Assembly

- Stakeholders in the media had protested over some stringent conditions for covering activities of the National Assembly

- Bukola Saraki, the Senate president, denied knowledge of the new guidelines and called for immediate withdrawal of media restrictions

The leadership of the National Assembly has withdrawn the controversial accreditation guidelines, following the protest by the stakeholders in the media industry over the stringent conditions for covering activities of the National Assembly.

Guardian reports that although no official statement has been released to that effect, it was learnt that the National Assembly clerk has directed the information director, Agada Rawlings Emmanuel, who signed the document containing the guidelines to immediately withdraw it.

Legit.ng gathered that a team of National Assembly officials, comprising Emmanuel and other senior staff, have been asked to work out more acceptable guidelines for the accreditation.

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It was learnt that the 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 May 21, 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.

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. He said the alleged guidelines will be promptly investigated.

“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," he added.

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

The group urged Saraki and Dogara to immediately withdraw the accreditation guidelines and allowing journalists to freely cover the activities of leadership and members of the National Assembly or it would pursue national and international legal action.

Recall that the press corps had kicked against the new guidelines, suggesting that it suppresses press freedom and the ethos of parliamentary democracy.

Legit.ng reported that chairman of the press corps, Ezrel Tabiowo, said the recent move poses an act of intimidation against journalists assigned to cover the National Assembly.

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Source: Legit

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