Seven TV stations barred from senate plenary

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Cameramen from about seven television stations were shut out from covering the activities at the upper legislative chamber on Thursday.

The directive was said to have been given by Nelson Ayewoh, clerk of the senate.

Thirteen television stations had been accredited to cover proceedings, but only Africa Independent Television (AIT), Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Channels Television, Silverbird Television, Television Continental (TVC) and New Age media were allowed into the chamber after the clerk’s directive.

Television stations such as Murhi International Television (MiTv), Ben Tv, Core Tv, Peoples Tv, DTN and ITv, and one other station were then asked to cover the session from the gallery but they boycotted plenary in protest.

It was gathered that Ayewoh took the decision to reduce the number of cameramen in the chamber.

Some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators had reportedly complained that their All Progressives Congress (APC) counterparts enjoyed better coverage than them.

In a petition to Sabi Abdullahi, senate spokesman, the senate press corps said though the clerk had complained to them about alleged misconduct by some of the cameramen, he ought to have waited for them to call them to order.

The press corps described the development as “very unhealthy and a recipe for avoidable friction between the media as a professional body and the national assembly”.

“The attention of the senate press corps leadership has been drawn to a decision by the senate bureaucracy to further reduce the number of television crews covering senate plenary from 13 to six. The change came into operation today, precipitating the reported boycott by the cameramen today of all Senate proceedings,” the petition signed by Cosmos Ekpunobi, chairman of the corps, read.

“Recall, sir, that we had a meeting on Wednesday with the clerk of the senate on the subject matter, during which he raised some issues and alleged misconduct by some of our colleagues.

“The leadership of the senate press corps, however, accepted to call our erring members to order and to get back to the clerk for further action. We expected the clerk to also rescind his decision pending the outcome of our meeting with the cameramen today.

“We do not also want to subscribe to certain insinuations in some quarters that the new policy is another step to gag journalists covering the upper chamber, especially as the senate president paid us a visit on Wednesday to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day.

“We have been repeatedly told that there is no parliament in the world where cameramen are allowed into the chamber. But we are also aware that such chambers, as mentioned, have functional central pool units where broadcast cameramen using latest television technologies such as Ultra High Definition cameras operate to deliver quality feeds.

“And until such equipment are installed with the requisite broadcast professionals to man them, we plead for a stay of execution.”

The senate is yet to react to the development.