Pakistan should renew visas for journalists facing expulsion

New York, May 15, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the impending expulsion of two foreign journalists from Pakistan. Meena Menon, a correspondent for The Hindu, and Snehesh Alex Philip, a correspondent for the Press Trust of India, are both Indian journalists. 

The journalists received letters on May 13 from the Pakistan’s Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage that informed them their visas would not be renewed, news accounts reported. No reason was given for the decision. The journalists were ordered to leave the country within seven days.

Both journalists were first informed of the authorities’ decision on May 8, but were not officially notified for several days. Menon and Philip, who have been in Pakistan for less than a year, are the only Indian press working in Pakistan, part of an arrangement between the two countries that allows two correspondents from each country to be posted in the other’s capital.

The looming expulsion of the journalists runs counter to recent commitments the government made during meetings with a CPJ delegation in March. In a March 19 meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the delegation, “We must make Pakistan accessible to journalists.” He directed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant on foreign affairs, to resolve the issue of visa restrictions for foreign journalists. In a follow-up meeting the next day, Information Secretary Nazir Saeed committed to taking up the issue.

“CPJ left Pakistan with the sense that the government was ready to reverse many of its predecessors’ positions against the press. A sure way to demonstrate this would be to grant both Meena Menon and Snehesh Alex Philip visa renewals so they may continue their work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Foreign journalists like Menon and Philip are essential to providing the international community with a deeper understanding of newsworthy events in Pakistan.”

In July 2013, Menon and Philips’ predecessors, Anita Joshua of The Hindu and PTI’s Rezaul Hasan Laskar, were ordered to leave Pakistan after being denied extension to their visas.