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Cyril Almeida Fears Further 'Uglier Actions' by Pakistan Government

CNN-News18

First published: October 12, 2016, 8:00 AM IST | Updated: October 12, 2016
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Cyril Almeida Fears Further 'Uglier Actions' by Pakistan Government
TV grab of Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida's photo.

New Delhi: Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida, who had broken the story of a rift between the country’s political and military leadership on Tuesday, says he fears that the government is planning to take further'uglier actions'.

He has already been put on the ‘Exit Control List’ which bars him from travelling outside the country.

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Hamid Mir, The Editor of Dawn, the paper which published the Cyril Almeida story, has defended the same in an editorial published in the paper which also carried the denials issued by the Prime Minister's office.

"While any media organisation can commit an error of judgement and Dawn is no exception, the paper believes it handled the story in a professional manner and carried it only after verification from multiple sources. Moreover, in accordance with the principles of fair and balanced journalism, for which Dawn is respected not only in Pakistan but also internationally, it twice carried the denials issued by the Prime Minister’s Office," wrote the paper in an editorial.

Mir maintained that the story was “verified, cross-checked and fact-checked” and requested the government that the travel ban on Almeida be lifted at once.

"This news organisation will continue to defend itself robustly against any allegation of vested interest, false reporting or violation of national security. As gatekeeper of information that was “verified, cross-checked and fact-checked”, the editor of this paper bears sole responsibility for the story in question. The government should at once remove Mr Almeida’s name from the ECL and salvage some of its dignity," said the editorial.

Mir also tweeted in support of Almeida.

"We will not support but will fight for Cyril-Amnesty, APNS, CPNE, PFUJ, HRCP condemn placing Dawn reporter on ECL," tweeted Mir.

There has been a growing chorus of support for him internationally.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday the U.S. was aware of reports of restrictions on Almeida's travel.

"We're concerned about any efforts to limit press freedom or the ability of journalists to conduct their very, very important work," Kirby told reporters.

Amnesty International too denounced the move. Amnesty International called on the government to lift all restrictions on Almeida and said reporters in Pakistan should be able to work freely and without fear of retribution.

"The travel ban on Cyril Almeida is a crude intimidation tactic designed to silence journalists and stop them from doing their jobs," said the rights group's Audrey Gaughran in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged Pakistan to "immediately lift the travel ban" on Almeida.

"Pakistan can be a dangerous place for journalists, but the nation has a proud tradition of a fiercely independent press," said CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Steven Butler.

"Unhappiness with a press report should never be used as an excuse to restrict the freedom of a journalist," he added.

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Recently, Pakistan also passed the controversial Cyber Crime Act which grants sweeping powers to regulators to block private information they deem illegal.

Government officials say internet restrictions under the new law are needed to ensure security against growing threats, such as "terrorism".

Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission said media have the right to cover civil-military relations. It said any objections to the article should be pursued through legal avenues.

Almeida, in the Dawn newspaper on October 6, had broken the story of an “unprecedented warning” delivered by the civilian government to the military in the aftermath of India’s surgical strikes at a meeting held on October 3 in Islamabad between the two leaders.

The story also claimed there was a “verbal confrontation” between PM’s brother and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar over the Army’s support given to non-state actors like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

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