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


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

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

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Pentagon has suggested that, since the campaign started, some 10,000 Isis fighters in Iraq and Syria have been killed  

War with Isis: If the US wants to destroy the group, it will need to train Syrians and Iraqis

David Usborne
David Cameron gives a speech at a Tory party dinner  

In a time of austerity, should Tories be bidding £210,000 for a signed photo of the new Cabinet?

Simon Kelner
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most