A leading Pakistani newspaper on Wednesday rejected allegations of “vested interest and false reporting”, a day after the government imposed a travel ban on its journalist for reporting on a rift between civil and military leaderships over covert support to militants. Dawn came out with a scathing editorial, saying Cyril Almeida’s story on the verbal clash between government and military – which has generated a lot of heat in the country -was “duly verified and correct piece of reporting.”
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Almeida, a columnist for Dawn, on Tuesday said he has been put on Exit Control List – a border control system maintained by Pakistan government which allows it to bar people whose names appear on the list from leaving the country.
He had reported that leading civilian officials had warned the powerful army to renounce its covert support to militants like the Haqqani network, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – or face international isolation.
“This paper recently reported an extraordinary closed-door meeting between top government and intelligence officials where the foreign secretary briefed them on what he saw as Pakistan’s growing international isolation; following this, there was a discussion on the impediments in the way of dealing with the problem of militancy in the country,” the daily said in the editorial titled ‘Reaction to Dawn story’.
“As gatekeeper of information that was ‘verified, cross-checked and fact-checked’, the editor of this paper bears sole responsibility for the story in question,” it said.
It said in accordance with the principles of fair and balanced journalism, Dawn twice carried the denials issued by the Prime Minister’s Office about the clash during a meeting when the ISI was told by civilian leadership that its covert support to militants led to Pakistan’s isolation globally.
“Journalism has a long and glorious tradition of keeping its promise to its audience even in the face of enormous pressure brought to bear upon it from the corridors of power,” it said apparently referring to the pressure tactics such as Almeida’s name being put on ECL and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s assertion two days ago that “stern action” will be taken against those responsible for the story, which his office called “fabricated”.
The daily acknowledged that “while any media organisation can commit an error of judgement and Dawn is no exception, the paper believes it handled the story in a professional manner and carried it only after verification from multiple sources.”
It demanded that Almeida’s name should “at once” be removed from the list of people banned to leave the country so that some of the government’s dignity could be salvaged.