Five days after two Indian journalists based in Islamabad were “verbally” asked to leave Pakistan, they were given an ultimatum “in writing” Tuesday to leave by May 20. No reasons were given for the move.
This prompted a sharp response from India, with the Ministry of External Affairs calling it “regrettable and unfortunate” since the journalists — Snehesh Alex Philip of Press Trust of India and Meena Menon of The Hindu — have been asked to leave “prematurely and suddenly” only a few months after their arrival there.
“Not allowing independent journalists to function is a retrograde step especially as free flow of information between India and Pakistan has been recognised as an important confidence building measure,” said MEA official spoke-sperson Syed Akbaruddin.
According to sources, the two Indian journalists got a call at 9.42 pm Tuesday that they should leave the country within a week. A few hours later they got letters from the Pakistan Information Ministry, asking them to leave by May 20. On May 8, Pakistan had conveyed to the two journalists that they should leave the country “within a week”.
Philip and Menon went to Pakistan in August 2013, and were given visas for three months — which was renewed every three months. Their visas were valid until March 9, and both journalists had submitted applications to renew their visas.
After their original visas expired, they were issued letters stating that their visa renewals were being processed.
Pakistan and India have an agreement that each is allowed two journalists in each other’s capital: one from a news agency and the other from a newspaper. There hasn’t been a journalist from Pakistan in Delhi since 2011.
PTI’s Editor-in-Chief and CEO M K Razdan said, “We have been given no notice, no reason and no rationale for this virtual expulsion by the Pakistan government.”