CPJ official denied entry into Pakistan

 
October 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Rights organisations have criticised Pakistani authorities after a member of a leading media watchdog was denied entry to the country, calling the move a 'slap in the face for those...

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ISLAMABAD: Rights organisations have criticised Pakistani authorities after a member of a leading media watchdog was denied entry to the country, calling the move a "slap in the face for those concerned about press freedom".

Immigration officials at Lahore airport Thursday told Steven Butler -- the Asia programme coordinator of The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) -- he was on an Interior Ministry "stop list", the rights group said.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior Ministry did not respond to Reuters calls seeking comment.

Butler had traveled to Lahore to participate in the Asma Jahangir Conference–Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan, an event named after a Pakistani lawyer and rights activist who died last year.

After arriving in the country, Pakistani officials confiscated his travel documents and Bulter was put on a plane back to Doha and later to Washington, CPJ said.

Meanwhile, when contacted a well-informed politician said that Ministry of Information had gathered reports about this CPJ official from agencies and the action was justified. He said that everything cannot be revealed to the media, adding that the CPJ official’s presence here was not in the interests of the country.

“Pakistani authorities´ move to block Steven Butler from entering the country is baffling and is a slap in the face for those concerned about press freedom in the country,” said Joel Simon, CPJ´s executive director, said in a statement.

“If the government is interested in demonstrating its commitment to a free press, it should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this case.”

The ministers of interior and information both refused to comment on the case when contacted by AFP.

Brad Adams, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch´s Asia division, called the move “alarming” and demanded the government “reverse the decision and take urgent steps towards providing an enabling environment for free expression”.

The organiser of the event also voiced concerns.

“The theme of this year´s conference itself was freedom of expression. If they are doing this to a member of a media watchdog what else is left?” said Munizae Jahangir, an organiser of the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Amnesty International expressed alarm over Butler’s deportation and said the decision should be “reevaluated” and “reversed”.

In a tweet, HRCP said it was “disappointed by the government’s decision” to deport Butler, adding that the decision “must be reevaluated”. “On one hand, the government claims to be building a softer image of Pakistan. On the other, it refuses entry to a reputed international journalist with a valid visa,” HRCP said in a tweet.

Amnesty International also criticised the move, saying that the deportation of the CPJ official was “an alarming sign that freedom of expression continues to be under attack in Pakistan”.

“The decision must be reversed immediately,” the rights group demanded in a tweet. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) also condemned the denial of entry to Steven Butler, Asia Programme Coordinator of The Committee to Protect Journalists.

In a joint statement, PFUJ President Afzal Butt and General Secretary Ayoub Serhindi said denying entry to Steven Butler was another proof of worsening media freedom in Pakistan, as it never happened in the recent past by any democratically elected government in Pakistan.

The PFUJ leaders demanded to investigate as to why and who ordered denial of entry to the office-bearer of such an important and top journalist body of the world, as this had brought a bad name to the country.


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