November 28, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Heads of various press clubs from across the country have agreed to set up a national council for press clubs to ensure better coordination, says a statement issued by the National Press Club, Islamabad, Thursday.
The meeting picked Arshad Ansari, president Lahore Press Club, as the convener of the council. Presidents of Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Sukkur and Abbottabad Press Clubs will work as members of the proposed council.
The team will contact all the press clubs in the country and will also ink a constitution and other regulations for the council. The meeting also announced to hold a national convention of press clubs at Lahore soon.
The announcement came on the heels of a session that stressed need for such a body and called for its establishment earlier in the day.
Speakers and leaders of journalists' unions were speaking at a panel titled ‘Strengthening Press Clubs’ at the National Media Conference (picture), convened by the Individualland Pakistan.
They said while the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists remains an umbrella organization for journalists in the country, such a body will ensure better coordination among the press clubs and will help resolve issues facing clubs across the country. There is no confrontation between the press clubs and the unions of journalists (UJs) and the proposed council will not run parallel to the PFUJ, they emphasized.
Highlighting press clubs’ role in protecting and promoting democratic values, Imtiaz Faran, President Karachi Press Club, narrated how they were resisting demands to either relocate the press club or stop public demos there, as the club falls in the red zone.
Arshad Ansari, said there has been Section 144 imposed around the Lahore press club for years now to discourage public rallies there. “But we never accepted this restriction, and daily demonstrations tell us that nobody accepts it.”
The panel also discussed ways to overcome financial problems of the clubs. Ansari said Lahore Press Club’s annual budget was over Rs30 million. “Punjab government contributes a mere Rs2.5 million, and we raise the rest through advertising hoardings and other means.”
He said it is shameful that a subeditor gets paid less than a constable in this country, and sought NGO sector’s help in overcoming financial problems of the clubs.
President of the PFUJ Afzal Butt emphasized the need to differentiate between clubs and unions. “Club’s basic purpose is recreation of members whereas a union strives for media workers’ rights.”
But Matiullah Jan took a swipe at the way affairs were being managed at clubs and by the unions. “A club is meant to be just a facility. Its elected body has to exercise its role within the club premises.”
He said corruption is rampant at most press clubs and questioned why public funds are not distributed equally among all the recognized press clubs.
“Unfortunately, clubs are richer and more powerful today than unions, which have lost all their credibility. Clubs should be restricted to their basic role i.e. facilitation of members and the unions should assert themselves.”
Instead of clubs, we should be strengthening unions, Mati concluded.
The chair Saleem Shahid agreed that the profession is faced with all these problems due to its rapid expansion over the last decade.
Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said clubs are important but should not overtake the unions. He said many union and club members do not fulfill the membership criteria and hence all these problems.
For press clubs, he proposed other ways to generate funds, like enrolling diplomats as ex-officio members, than submitting before the government.
(The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad. He currently works for Radio Pakistan)
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