A press club: No fair play, no accountability and no dialogue

Acquire a shady declaration from a non-existent news agency and voilà, you are a journalist forever!

Arsalan Altaf August 04, 2012
The outside world hardly knows about all that goes on at a press club. Many mistake a press club for the press itself and think that it is a place reserved for healthy and constructive dialogue. I thought the same until very recently when the paper I worked for wound up and I started to spend some time at the National Press Club (NPC), Islamabad.

Rest assured that what happens here is everything but dialogue, fair play, accountability, equality and all that our media, ostensibly calls for.

Let’s start with the dubious case of its membership. Nobody knows when the press club’s membership opens; the reception office will conveniently tell you that they have not yet started receiving membership application forms. However, those with ‘influence’ can obtain and submit applications at will anytime of the year.

If a young journalist is lucky enough, he or she will be awarded an ‘associate membership’. The press club’s constitution states that these will be awarded to proprietors, partners, directors, general managers, chairmen and managing directors of news organisations, press information and public relations officers, press attaches, and spouses of press club’s members.

When asked if awarding an 'associate membership' to journalists is against the press club’s constitution, Farooq Faisal Khan, President of NPC, said he would only comment after consulting the constitution, which by the way is a document of just a few pages.

The press club’s constitution also talks about a library. There is almost every facility at the press club; a cafeteria, a TV room, a sports halls, a computer lab and what not but there is no place to study (the constitution does speak of a library, doesn't it?). So when asked if there is any plan for a library in the future, Farooq Khan refused to comment altogether. How silly of me to think that one can actually hold the president of a club accountable for breach or ignorance of the club's constitution.

At the press club, council members, also known as full members, enjoy certain perks and privileges. For instance it’s only them who have a right to vote in the press club elections. Many young professional journalists, a lot of whom are 'associate members' for years now, have been demanding the right to vote but their demands seem to be falling on deaf years.

A total of 1,400 plots have also been allotted to members of the National Press Club under the Punjab Journalists Housing Foundation Act 2004. Associates say many council members are not even working journalists any more, yet they are the first to receive privileges without being questioned.

The press club’s finances come mostly from donations by the visiting politicians and press conferences; it charges about Rs12,000 per press conference. When a politician is invited to an event by a journalistic body, he is expected to donate or present a gift in monetary form.

Then there are the so called ‘journalists’ who you are almost always bound to find at the press club. God forbid you ask them of their respective organisations or credentials; you will be swarmed with a dozen names of  newspapers and news agencies that you probably have never heard of. Many have acquired declarations for magazines and wire services which, years later, still don’t seem to exist. These declarations, as a friend put it, are a mere means to legitimise certain privileges they receive in the name of journalism at the press club and in general.

So here is a tip for you guys, acquire a shady declaration from a non-existent news agency and voilà, you are a journalist forever who is now entitled to perks and privileges for a lifetime.

Other distinctive features of a press club include lots of tea, cigarettes and frivolous lounging. In the evenings, some sit in circles and argue over petty political issues. Curiously enough, they do this on daily basis. What is very common in a press club is the frequent swearing and use of foul language. I think this is probably due to the misunderstanding that unless an assertion or a point of debate is accompanied by a curse word, you will fail to make an emphasis on its importance.

Most of these journalists or members, sit and discuss the chances of various political parties in the next elections for hours on a daily basis. They take sides, quarrel endlessly and don’t budge from their stance (so much for stimulating one's intellect!). I mean, wouldn't one naturally assume some global matter or a proactive discussion over ending corruption or even ideas about how to eradicate child labour to be the subject matter of discussions?

Mind you, the present governing body is quite apt at introducing something new every now and then such as BBQs, summer camps, family galas and so on. However, what it really needs to do is scrutinise its members - both the seniors and the new comers - and introduce a bit of transparency into the membership procedure. It needs to reconsider its methods to bring more quality to the club and its constituents.

Oh well, now that I have seen the inside of a press club, I can surely say that there is nothing constructive or healthy about the happenings within.
Arsalan Altaf A journalist who has previously worked for Daily Times and Dateline Islamabad. He blogs at http://arsalanaltaf.wordpress.com and Tweets @Arsalan2u
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Abduallh Warsi P.E | 11 years ago | Reply Respected editor: Please publish this letter so people must know what is truth and what is falsehood. I have tried to use soft language as I could. But u can edit it if some thing is harsh. Thanks Mr. Ata Rehman: Your objection on this invention and your slandering campaign against this invention is ONLY AND ONLY based on your stubbornness, ignorance and jealousy. I can prove it as follow that what you have said is nothing but a piece of crap that can only be expected from a mentally retarded beast who is burning in Jealousy: 1- You said that Agha is running car w/o external source. This is ur lie. Water has Hydrogen gas and Petrol has same gas too. In petrol car, battery runs fuel pump and in Agha's car the current that is used for fuel pump is used to crack water into gases. So ur slander that it is perpetual machine is false and absurd. His new method is new invention and ABSOLUTELY NOT ELECTROLYSIS. U cannot activate electrolysis in distilled water. 2- You said Agha has no Engineering Degree so he cannot be inventor. This your argument is EXTREMELY shameful because It is absolutely not necessary to have Ph.D or B.E Engg in order to invent. Your this extremely shameful argument can be fully debunked because the biggest inventor of history Thomas Edison was neither a Ph.D nor have B.E Engg. This is fact that most of great inventors were not well versed in theory of sciences. They were just Technicians/Technologists like Agha. 3- In your TV Shows and in ur articles you have frequently declared Agha a Fraud even with out finding any physical fraud in his car that he has demonstrated already in front of many people. It is your total moral bankruptcy that you are mongering slanders of fraud even w/o Proof against that humble inventor. As per Islamic law, You deserve 80 stripes on your back or u bring physical Proof of fraud. 4- At the end of your article, you have said that GOV should give exemplary punishment to Agha. This is again your extremely preposterous claim as you are suggesting punishment against the greatest inventor of mankind history against whom you have no any proof of fraud. In fact Gov must give that exemplary punishment to you because it is you and not Agha who is misleading people and it is you who has proved himself a big slander monger. 5- Truth is this, that Agha is not well versed in theory but yet have brought mother of all inventions. You and your old books have no ability yet to understand this invention. This is ABSOLUTELY NOT ELECTROLYSIS but a new technique. A liter water has energy equal to millions of KW too if u understand what I mean-fusion. You claim that you are Ph.D; yet you do not understand, that in distilled water, electrolysis cannot be activated. Your Ph.D must be investigated if it is not bogus. Because Agha is not well versed in theory, this is why he wrongly introduced his method as electrolysis. IT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT ELECTROLYSIS because battery cannot run car through electrolysis. 6- The biggest proof of TRUTH is practical demonstration of invention in front of people which is eye witness through observation. That what Agha has already done. If you are unable to understand that invention, that does not mean it is fraud but its mean, you have yet no ability to understand that invention & so you must educate yourself and updated your old man-made laws and theories as per new invention. Are you Allah? No. Only Allah has complete knowledge. A Ph.D know many things YET DO NOT KNOW EVERY THING. In Agha's system, his invention provides trigger for reaction, then that reaction is almost self-Sustaining. To change it from "Almost Self-Sustaining" to "SUSTAINING", It need periodical push from car battery. But that push is in milliamps and so small that it is less than the current that car radio uses. Ata Rehman. I will not yet disclose secrets of this invention though I know it fully. I just give u hint and if your brain is still young, that will pick it. In his method Agha's team provides trigger to start reaction & after, that reaction can be sustained with very very little current from battery. Consider example of Kerosene lamp. You start/lit it once by a little fire; then that works itself. only you have to add kerosene periodically to continue it. Instead of kerosene of this example in Agha's Kit is needed very little current in milli-amps and more distilled water periodically so that it continues. 7- You also claimed that what Agha has done is already been done by many in past. Here you have told again 100% lie. In past people has blended gas with petrol to reduce cost of Petrol but no one ever succeeded to replace petrol 100% by water. Agha is the first person who has done so and his invention is clear a TRUTH as is Sun on sky. and u will see it.
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