Can journalists ever be trusted to keep a secret?

Dart-playing Telegraph correspondent has been banned from the British social club in Islamabad - in case he reports the off-hand gossip of diplomats

Share

Unsettling news reaches me from Islamabad - news of the I'd-not-want-to-join-any-club-that-would-have-me nature.

It has emerged that a member of the British media has been told he is not allowed to attend events at the British social club, attached to the British High Commission and located inside the diplomatic compound, simply because he is a journalist.

Rob Crilly, the affable and hard-working correspondent of The Telegraph, is a keen (and perhaps, rather skilled) practicioner of darts and this spring was a member of a team, Who Darted?, and played in a league that was held at the Canadian High Commission club. Mr Crilly was looking forward to the autumn season which is to be held at the British club, when his team captain received a message from the committee stating that the Telegraph's man would not be welcome.

"Unfortunately, the ban on journalists is a club rule - not a darts committee rule.  The club committee are quite firm on this so I am afraid that Mr Robert Crilly will not be allowed to take part," the message said.

A spokesman for the High Commission in the Pakistan capital confirmed the ban was specific to journalists and that had Mr Crilly worked for a road construction firm, for instance, he would have been permitted. Diplomats relaxing at the end of a long hot day with a cool lemonade or some such, it appeared, did not their casual conversations reaching the ears of pesky journalists.

Several things struck me about this. Firstly, some diplomats, rather like a lot of journalists, are rather convinced that everything they have to say is fascinating when often it is not. Secondly, whenever I've witnessed diplomats interacting with journalists in Pakistan, they have usually been very interested in receiving the latest news and gossip and updates, especially if that journalist has just returned from somewhere that travel restrictions prohibit the diplomat from visiting. Thirdly, there is the matter of common-sense. Surely, people are sensible enough to sort out an agreement whereby whatever said on the premises is off-the-record.

As it is, the ban on journalists at the British club is nothing new and members of the media have for many years found themselves more welcome at either the Canadian Club or the French Club than at the British establishment. It's odd because the overwhelming majority of the British diplomats one runs into are very pleasant and smart and sociable. It's also strange because this is not a rule that applies to all British diplomatic clubs. Here in Delhi, for instance, the media are welcome along with other members of the British expat community to join the Green Parrot social club, which has a small but indispensable selection of British beer and erudite coversation.

Whether or not Mr Crilly is stopped from playing darts is not a matter of life or death. But there may be a more serious issue here: the diplomatic compounds are, obviously, paid for by British taxpayers and while I'm sure most people would not begrudge a safe facility to enable diplomats working in a country such as Pakistan the chance of relaxing once in a while, the rules on entry ought not to prohibit someone just because of their job.

There appears to be some lack of clarity about how much precisely the club costs. A spokesman told me ongoing costs are paid for by the members, but there is no separate breakdown of additional fees such as security.  A spokesman for the Foreign Office in London said in a statement:  "Decisions on membership of Embassy and High Commission social clubs are taken locally by club committees and their members according to their own rules and regulations.  These vary from post to post, as you would expect with any social club."

It may be that Mr Crilly has not done anything to help make himself popular among the British diplomatic corps. Last year he wrote about £30-a-head "Monsoon ball" at the club that shocked many observers, given that it took place at a time when the country was recovering from devastating floods.

There is another possible explanation for this whole stand-off, hinted at by Mr Crilly himself, and that is that the members of the British team are simply too intimidated by his skills in front of the darts' board.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A woman runs down the street  

Should wolf-whistling be reported to the Police? If you're Poppy Smart, then yes

Jane Merrick
 

Voices in Danger: How can we prevent journalists from being sexually assaulted in conflict zones?

Heather Blake
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence