New York, October 11, 2016 — Pakistan should immediately lift the travel ban imposed on columnist Cyril Almeida of the independent daily newspaper Dawn.
Almeida was notified on Monday that he’d been placed on Pakistan’s “exit control list” following publication of an article in the newspaper describing a clash between the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military, according to press reports. The ban came a day before Almeida was due to leave the country for a vacation with his family in Dubai.
“Pakistan can be a dangerous place for journalists, but the nation has a proud tradition of a fiercely independent press,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler. “Unhappiness with a press report should never be used as an excuse to restrict the freedom of a journalist.”
Almeida’s report described a confrontation in which civilian leaders warned the military that the country faced international isolation unless the military cracked down on Islamist groups, including the Haqqani network, which is active in Afghanistan, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and Jaish-e-Muhammad, which is linked to attacks in Kashmir. According to the article, Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, accused the military of working to free militants who’d been arrested by civilian authorities.
Dawn has published government denials of the story but maintains the accuracy of its reporting. An editorial note published by the paper states that Dawn “considers it a sacred oath to its readers to pursue its reporting fairly, independently and, above all, accurately. The story that has been rejected by Prime Minister’s Office as a fabrication was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.”
Commenting on the travel ban yesterday, Almeida tweeted, “Puzzled, saddened. Had no intention of going anywhere; this is my home. Pakistan.”