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Cameramen restricted in Senate for security reasons –Saraki

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Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has explained the recent restriction of cameramen from gaining entry into the Senate chamber was because of security reasons.

In a telephone conversation with our correspondent on Thursday night, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the Senate, and the National Assembly by extension, had nothing against the press.

He said the chamber’s gallery was still open to journalists and members of the public to observe proceedings.

The Senate, on Thursday, restricted coverage of its proceedings to six television stations. This forced all the cameramen to boycott coverage of the plenary at the chamber.

Thirteen television stations had been accredited to gain entry into the chamber to cover plenary but the coverage was now restricted to African Independent Television, Nigerian Television Authority, Channels Television, Silverbird Television, Television Continental and the in-house New Age.

The Senate Press Corps had protested against the restriction and filed a petition to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi.

Olaniyonu, however, said the restriction was only for “physical entry” of persons into the chamber. He said plenaries were usually broadcast at the Press Centre and proceedings could be monitored on television.

He said, “We must restrict physical access into the chamber. It is not everybody who carries a camera and claims to be a journalist that should be allowed in the chamber. If you look at the new list of approved media houses critically, you will see that all sides have been considered — government, pro-government and opposition stations are there.

“We must restrict physical entry into the chamber. There is a gallery at the chamber that is open to every observer of the plenary. Some things are going on in that place, which we cannot make public in print. We can only restrict physical presence of persons in the chamber.

“There is even a press gallery, which all journalists have unhindered access to. There are people who pretend to be pressmen in order to gain entry into the chamber. Not everybody who holds a camera should be allowed in.”

Meanwhile, it was reliably gathered on Friday that the Senate’s spokesman had stepped into the matter.

A member of the Senate Press Corps executive disclosed that a roundtable would be called on Monday to resolve the issue.

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