Rahul Jalali, a journalist, on Tuesday said the placing of a journalist of the Dawn newspaper on the Exit Control List on the instructions of the Prime Minister’s Office is a direct attack on freedom of press in Pakistan and needs to be condemned by the global media.
“It is a serious thing, as it a direct attack from the Prime Minister on freedom of press, and this needs to be taken seriously by journalists worldwide. Because the kind of stories we heard about freedom being given to press in Pakistan, they were given relative freedom, but I think it is back to usual, back to the normal practice which happens in Pakistan where any sort of dissent, especially in the media is getting muzzled. This is a clear indication of what’s going on,” Jalali said.
Cyril Almeida, the Dawn’s assistant editor was put on Pakistan’s Exit Control List following his article on a reported rift between the country’s civil and military leaderships. The newspaper asserted on Tuesday that it stands by the report and accused the government of “scape-goating the newspaper in a malicious campaign.”
Jalali said Almeida just wrote about a news event, and therefore, the manner in which he is being persecuted is unfair.
The orders have come directly from the Prime Minister and the Army is upset about what he wrote. But Jalali stressed that the report had not suggested anything untoward, yet this pure news reporting was not palatable to the government.
“Obviously the freedom of press in Pakistan is totally gone, and, I think, the world needs to wake up to it. This also shows the desperation of the Pakistan administration, be it the civilian government or the Army, especially, after the manner in which they are being isolated in the international community on the issue of terrorism. So, they do not want any reports about their meeting in the media, criticism is a far cry,” Jalali told ANI.
After the journalist from Dawn took to his twitter account on Monday to point out that his name has appeared on the list.
“I am told and have been informed and have been shown evidence that I am on the Exit Control List,” he tweeted.
The Exit Control List is an ordinance which empowers the Pakistan government to bar people whose names appear on the list from leaving the country.
In the article titled “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military”, Almeida stated that some in the civilian government complained at a top-secret meeting that they were being asked to do more in order to clamp down on armed groups, yet whenever law-enforcement agencies took action, the security establishment “worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free”.
According to the October 6th report, the civilian government’s representatives at the meeting gave a warning that Pakistan would be risking “international isolation” if the security establishment did not take the recommended course of action.
The report further cites that the arguments made by Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Pakistan’s Punjab Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, during the meeting in the Prime Minister’s Offices triggered a debate with the military leadership
Almeida’s article came against the backdrop of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the surgical stake carried out by Indian Armed Forces across the Line of Control (LoC) on September 29.