ISLAMABAD: Although the number of journalists in the federal capital crossed the figure of 2,000 which was many times more than previous, but ironically their seating arrangement in the parliament to cover proceedings has not been increased. A senior official in the administration who is looking after these affairs for over 20 years said, while talking exclusively to Daily Times that currently, only 206 seats existed in the parliament press gallery for live coverage of parliament sessions which, he said, were quite less for the ever increasing number of journalists in the capital. “I still remember that the present number of seats in the press gallery was since 1985 and after that no new sitting was arranged for journalists in accordance with their strength,” he recalled. While lashing out at each successive government, the official remarked that he was noticing the changes of governments for the past two decades but their policies and priorities remained almost the same. “Each government whether it was democratic or a military coup, public beneficiary policies never remained on their agenda,” he regretted adding that such governments never kept their priority to make policies regarding adequate seating arrangements for media persons in the press gallery. He explained that in 1985, the Press Information Department (PID) was supposed to issue 250 to 300 parliament entry cards for media persons and that number still remains the same. Moreover, he added that the purpose of these cards was for entering in the house while it is not necessary that such journalists could find space in the gallery to fulfill their professional duties. It is pertinent to mention that to issue the parliament entry cards is the responsibility of the PID while to make seating arrangements in the press gallery is onus of National Assembly speaker’s office. The official recalled the time when only print media outlets which even were few in number was source of information for the public apart from a state run TV channel and a news agency. “The gallery was designed and constructed as per ratio of that time’s media persons,” he added. Currently, there are around 100 news channels in the country while number of Urdu and English newspapers has also increased significantly particularly in the past two decades. The official also suggested that apart from widening the gallery, entry cards strength also should be increased as, he said, these days one news channel deploys more than one reporter to cover the proceeding. Besides this, he said camerapersons and photographers who have an integral job have also not been issued parliament entry cards. “At least 1,000 entry cards should be issued to cope with the overwhelming issue,” he further suggested. When contacted, Parliament Spokesperson Sharafat Hussain said, “I do not have the exact information about such issues.” He also denied to further speaker on the matter. Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) President Qurban Baloch said that usually the gallery overcrowds when some irrelevant persons sit over there. “So many such persons who are non-journalists occupy the seats which were specified for journalists originally,” PRA President Qurban Baloch explained. “On the behalf of all parliament reporters, I request PID not to issue entry cards to non-concerning people during parliament session days,” he demanded. Published in Daily Times, January 4th 2019.