The recent inclusion of a controversial clause in the booking rules of the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) premises has sparked a debate among its members, prompting a rethink on the matter. After the election of the new committee and office bearers last year, a fresh draft of rules for booking the premises for events, mainly press conferences and seminars, was made. It requires a member to give an undertaking that “nothing will be said which will be anti-national, question the integrity of the country, amount to sedition or cause harm to the reputation to the club’’.
The clause has triggered outrage and stiff opposition from IWPC members and sparked a debate on stifling of “freedom of expression ironical for a press club’’. The clause was included in August last year. But it came to light when a social activist applied to book the IWPC hall for an event recently, members of the club said.
“This is outrageous. This is against the ideals of free speech and expression… There has been a signature campaign by 180 members,” said a member of the club.
“As founder members and former office bearers of the IWPC, we feel that the clause is totally unnecessary as it implicates the members and has the potential of subjecting them to harassment… Surely an alternative language can be explored in order to insulate both the member and the institution…,” the letter said.
IWPC president Sushma Ramachandran explained the clause was prompted by an incident at the Press Club of India, where supposedly anti-national sloganeering took place during an event and the president and general secretary of the Club got embroiled in a police case.
“If the larger membership wants something, I think we should revise or alter or retain it but the issue merits a detailed discussion and debate,” she said.