By Sadiq Umar – The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has demanded immediate withdraw of the obnoxious media accreditation guidelines issued by the National Assembly or face legal action.
SERAP, in a statement in Abuja, Tuesday said the controversial accreditation guidelines are designed deliberately as barriers against transparency and accountability and amount to a blatant violation of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information and media freedom.
The National Assembly leadership and management had in a letter to media organizations Monday issued stringent ‘media accreditation guidelines’ capable of denying journalists the right to cover the ninth Session of National Assembly.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki had denied knowledge of the guidelines, saying it did not emanate from the Senate.
The guidelines include among others, 5000 daily traffic in the case of online media, evidence of incorporation of the media organisation, proof of membership of the NUJ with registration number and the code of certification from the National Library of Nigeria.
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare faulted the guidelines dismissing it as capable of obstructing accountability and transparency of lawmakers.
“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 organization urged the Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu 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.”
The organization said it would: “pursue national and international legal action if the unlawful guidelines is not withdrawn by Friday.” “The accreditation guidelines clearly run counter to constitutional provisions and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and the notion of free marketplace of ideas, necessary to serve the best interests of the public.”
“Our constitutional democracy rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society.”
“A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires access to information, as ‘sunlight is the best of disinfectants.’ Allowing journalists to freely cover the activities of the National Assembly would be the most prominent expression of a commitment to ensuring an open National Assembly. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the lawmakers and the citizenry alike,” it added.