Jatiya Press Club of Bangladesh
Jatiya Press Club of Bangladesh is the national press club of the country, where Dhaka-based journalists engaged in the mainstream of the mass media comprising newspapers, television channels, radio broadcasting, internet-based online news outlets etc associate themselves for improvement of their skills and also for recreation to minimise their day to day professional strains.
Apparently it is a social club where most journalist members visit regularly to refresh their mind by mingling with colleagues of different disciplines at canteen, members lounge, library, media room and other spaces of the club, during their leisure amid hectic professional duties.
The members enjoy the congenial atmosphere of the club and many of them cannot think to pass a single day without visiting the club, which they fondly call their second home.
Press clubs are everywhere in the world, but like many other elite clubs, entries for general public are restricted for the sake of security and dignity. Membership are reserved exclusively for the media people, but political leaders, civic society activists and leaders of different professional groups, think tanks, academics etc visit press club and hold different events regularly to carry forward their respective political and organisational campaigns.
The press club management arrange different facilities so that the intending leaders and newsmakers can hold their events within the press club premises, excluding the exclusive zones meant only for the members.
In Bangladesh press clubs have been thriving for decades and in course of time the Jaitya Press Club has become an inseparable entity of the national political process.
The Jatiya Press Club came into being as the East Pakistan Press Club in 1954, when Dhaka was the capital of the eastern province of Pakistan. Some pioneers of the progressive media of the country set up the club as a hub of the journalists, including some correspondents of the foreign media, who had been penetrating all departments of the East Pakistan government to expose the step brotherly attitude of the Pakistan government against the Bangalees of East Pakistan. They first mooted the idea to have a club for the journalists in 1948.
The idea was implemented with the cooperation of the then East Pakistan Chief Secretary Niaz Mohammad Khan, who was eager to have close link with Dhaka journalists. That facilitated the formation of the Press Club, the first of its kind then in whole of South Asia.
The East Pakistan Press Club was renamed as the Jatiya Press Club after Bangladesh was liberated on December 16, 1971 following a nine-month-long Liberation War against Pakistan occupational army. The name of the club was officially changed at the annual general meeting of the club held on December 14, 1974.
Those who took effective steps among journalists to set up the club included Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah (Daily Ittefaq), Abdus Salam (Pakistan Observer), Syed Nuruddin (Daily Sangbad), Zahur Hossain Chowdhury (Daily Sangbad), Balan (Dhaka correspondent of PTI), M A Azim (APP), S G M Badruddin (Morning News), Abdul Matin (UPP), M A Wahab (Dhaka correspondent of The Statesman, Calcutta).
The founding members of the Club included, as available from the list of signatories to the Articles of Association include: M A Azim, Syed Nuruddin, Abdul Matin, Hasanuzzaman Khan, Mohammad Modabber, S G M Badruddin, A K M Abdul Quader, M R Akhtar Mukul, S R Akhtar, Salahuddin Mohammad and S Arshad Hossain. The Club was registered under the Societies Act 21 of 1964.
The organisers chose a sprawling British-built red building having a elegant look, at 18 Topkhana Road, which was within walking distance of the Secretariat, the seat of the provincial government. From the beginning entry to the Press Club was restricted to the Members only and for passersby it was always a big surprise.
However, with time the members of the East Pakistan Press Club had their increasing solidarity with the movement for rights of the media professional, freedom of expression and press and the prevailing political movement. The Press Club members have always played host to national leaders and stood firmly against all types of governmental restrictions and control. There was no political leader left who was not entertained with the famous dal-puri and tea of the Club. All heads of state and government of Bangladesh have visited the Club often. Today, the Club also provides platform to resident heads of missions of other countries as part of the Meet the Press programme.
As the members of the club used to write against the despotic attitude of Pakistan government, especially from March 1 to March 25, 1971, ahead of the start of the Liberation War, Pakistan army fired shells partly demolishing the club on the night of March 25, hours before Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced the declaration of independence.
Late Faiz Ahmed, one of the leading and senior most journalists of the country, was injured during the attack as he could not reach home and had to take shelter on the first floor of the Club. The Pakistani wrath against the media in the then East Pakistan was not restricted to Press Club only, On that night three newspapers were torched down. Members of the Club also embraced martyrdom during the War of Liberation. They are– Sirazzudin Hossain, Shahidullah Kaysar, Khondoker Abu Taleb, Nizamuddin Ahmad, SA Mannan (Ladu Bhai), ANM Golam Mostafa, Syed Nazmul Hoq, Abul Bashar, Shib Shadhan Chakrabarty, Chisti Shah Helalur Rahman, Muhammad Akhter, Salina Parvin, AKM Shahidullah (Shahid Saber)
The Club, despite occasional uncertainties, has never drifted away from its statutory obligations. The Constitution of the Club obliges holding of an Annual General Meeting every year before 31 December and a biennial Annual General Meeting that is also before 31 December, where elections are held to elect 17 Members of the Managing Committee, headed by a President, which is responsible for regulating the management of the Club. Since inception, the Club had luminaries of the profession leading the Managing Committees in different capacities. Besides, the Club has honoured 20 of its members with Honorary Membership, a number of them posthumously.
The club faced a threat, following an alleged conspiracy of vested quarters in the Secretariat, to its existence when there was a move to shift the club from its present premises to a location near the Shilpakala Academy in 1974. The move, however, was stalled. The government decision to lease out the plot to the Club in perpetuity was signed by the President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
President Ziaur Rahman while attending the annual dinner of the Club in 1976 declared that the Club would retain the present location, as it stands today. He also made the initial contribution from the state exchequer to build the new building of the Club.
The Club provides different types of services to the members, the most important of which is the cafeteria, where snacks and meals are subsidised. There are other facilities, including a rich library, but sometimes financial constraints limit expansion of services.
Over the years, the Club has grown up and now members enjoy more facilities. The founding anniversary is celebrated on October 20 every year with lots of funfair.
Jatiya Press Club always stood besides the people during political turmoil, gave space to the trade union movement of the media professionals.
Since long, press club management has been allowing different activists group to air their grievances gathering in front of the club. Often the professional groups stag sit in demonstration or hunger strikes for days together creating problems in the movement of the club members, still the club authority never put any objection to the activists.
Press club is a well known spot in the capital and strangers can reach the club without a map, as the spot is familiar to any transport operator