The Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) has barred journalists from covering the state’s local government election today.
The commission said it had no accreditation cards for journalists to ensure their free movements because of movement restrictions but vendors were seen hawking press accreditation cards for between N500 and N1, 000 in front of the commission’s premises.
The Director, Media and Publicity of the Commission, Sarah Amgbari, had earlier directed members of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the umbrella body of representatives of media houses based in the state, to submit a list of their members on Thursday.
The chapel submitted the list as directed but she asked the union executives to come back on Friday.
When the chapel executives, led by the Chairman of the Chapel, Ernest Chinwo, went to see her as directed, Amgbari said she had no cards for the national media.
She said the national media had an option to cover the election or not, but threatened that any journalist who writes anything not favourable to the commission would be arrested and detained.
She specifically warned the Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the NUJ, Ernest Chinwo, that he would be held responsible for any negative story and that she would ensure his arrest and detention.
Meanwhile, in front of the commission’s premises touts were busy hawking the media accreditation cards for between N500 and N1, 000 depending on the bargaining power of the prospective client.
One journalist, simply identified as Innocent, said he bought his accreditation card for N500.
Another vendor approached the Secretary of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Amaechi Okonkwo, to buy the press accreditation card for N1, 000.
Many vendors of accreditation cards were seen in front of the commission’s premises opposite Bori Camp, Aba Road, Port Harcourt.
It later took the intervention of the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Hon. Emma Okah, for the commission to make alternative arrangements for journalists.