The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the leadership of the National Assembly to withdraw the repressive accreditation guidelines for journalists at the National Assembly or face legal action.
SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, stated this in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.
Olwadare said the leadership of the National Assembly had issued a new media accreditation guideline that seems to be targeted at preventing journalists from covering the ninth National Assembly.
According to Oluwadare, some of the 20 conditions listed under the guidelines are evidence of incorporation of media organisations and proof of membership of Nigeria Union of Journalists with registration numbers and code of certification from the National Library of Nigeria.
He listed other requirements to include circulation of at least 40,000 newspaper copies daily with evidence to support the claimed figure.
He said the guidelines include evidence of 50,000 daily views in case of online media organisations and photocopies of media organisation’s tax return for at least two years for another.
“Nigerians expect the leadership of the National Assembly to show a greater level of transparency and accountability to explain and take responsibility for what they are doing rather than implicitly banning journalists from covering their public functions.
“Implementing the ‘accreditation guidelines’ will allow the lawmakers to escape accountability for their constitutional functions,” he said.
The organisation urged Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara to open the windows and let in the daylight into the National Assembly.
“This is by immediately withdrawing the accreditation guidelines and allowing journalists to freely cover the activities of leadership and members of the National Assembly,” he said.
Oluwadare said SERAP would initiate national and international legal action if the unlawful guidelines are not withdrawn by May 24.
He said that the accreditation guidelines were designed deliberately as barriers against transparency and accountability and amounted to a blatant violation of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information and media freedom.
“These are fundamental rights lying at the heart of any system of democratic governance.
“The guidelines clearly ran 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,” he said.
Oluwadare said that Nigeria’s 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.
He said that a democracy require accountability, and accountability require access to information, as ‘sunlight is the best disinfectants’.
He said that allowing journalists to freely cover the activities of the National Assembly would be the most prominent expression of a commitment to ensure an open assembly.
“At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the lawmakers and the citizenry alike,” he said.