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New 'Patriotic' Rules of Women's Press Corps Stump Journalists

Press clubs are usually champions of freedom of speech. And the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), housed on Windsor Road, a prime location in the national capital, is no exception.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:January 22, 2017, 9:31 PM IST
New 'Patriotic' Rules of Women's Press Corps Stump Journalists
A recent release from Indian Women’s Press Corps has come out with new 'patriotic' rules for journalists.
New Delhi: Press clubs are usually champions of freedom of speech. And the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), housed on Windsor Road, a prime location in the national capital, is no exception.

The IWPC has held a number of seminars on issues such as attacks on Dalits, women and journalists, and has condemned such incidents in the past. IWPC is run by women journalists, and among many things, is known for its excellent home-made food and is a popular hangout for journalists, bureaucrats and even politicians. In fact, it periodically organises talk shows with politicians and ministers.

But now, many members of the IWPC are left wondering how they can fight for their freedom of speech and expression. There is a small rebellion brewing and not many are openly speaking out yet. But a signature campaign has begun now.

What triggered this anger is a recent notice regarding bookings for press conferences and seminars. The form which needs to be filled up for booking the venue, says: “Nothing will be said which will be anti-national, question the integrity of the country, amount to sedition or cause harm to the reputation of the club.”

This has stunned its liberal members and no one from the managing committee is coming forward to claim ownership. It has been almost a month, and since the notice has not been withdrawn, several members have started a signature campaign.

Understandably, not many are willing to speak openly, but the resentment is palpable. A very senior member who was part of the previous managing committee says: “Never ever have we got involved in politics of the system. We hold such conferences as they give us revenue and the only check is that the crowd should be organised. This is an attack on our freedom and I suspect an attempt to woo the current discourse in the country on patriotism."

In October last year, the nearby Press Club of India, too, faced a similar issue. Jammu and Kashmir MLA Engineer Rasheed was attacked at the premises of the club by alleged volunteers of the Hindu Sena. Ink was thrown on his face for allegedly holding a “beef party” back in his state. Since then, the Press Club, too, has been very careful about who they call for seminars.

Ironically, the IWPC had condemned the incident then. Attempts to speak to the committee members and office staff got no response.

But as a member of the IWPC and someone who has signed the petition, this reporter wonders whether journalists should become judges.

| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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