Pakistan’s oldest English-language newspaper Dawn, in a hard-hitting editorial, defended its reportage of a story that has created ripples in the country. Cyril Almeida, one of the newspaper’s senior writers, had reported that there was a face-off between members of the Pakistani government and the Army over action on militant groups operating in the country. ISI Director General Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar, who was present at the meeting, was asked by government officials about the inaction of terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Haqqani network. Officials were reported to have quipped that the support to the militant groups was resulting in Pakistan’s growing international isolation. Following the story, the Nawaz Sharif government put out three statements of denial and went on to put Almeida’s name in the ‘exit control list’, thereby barring him from leaving the country.
The Dawn newspaper Wednesday, in an editorial, asked the Pakistani government to remove Almeida’s name from the list and ‘salvage some of its dignity.’
“There are times in a news organisation’s history that determine its adherence to the highest principles of journalism — its duty to inform the public objectively, accurately and fearlessly,” the newspaper said. It made it clear that it carried the story only after verification from multiple sources.
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Dawn said some of the ‘historically significant’ stories from news organisations across the world have been those that were reported while resisting the state. The newspaper said it will continue to defend itself against ‘any allegation of vested interest, false reporting or violation of national security.’
Amnesty International has also called on the Pakistani government to remove travel restrictions on Almeida and to uphold press freedom.