[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne really need to express the concern over the difficulties and dangers faced by journalists in Pakistan but refrain from commenting on the travel restrictions imposed on a Pakistani scribe for reporting a rift between the civilian and military leaderships. A leading Pakistani newspaper Dawn came out with a scathing editorial, saying Cyril Almeida’s story on the verbal clash between government and military – which has generated a lot of heat in the country -was “duly verified and correct piece of reporting.”
Cyril Almeida is a Pakistani journalist and an assistant editor for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. He was barred from leaving Pakistan, after he wrote a controversial news article after 2016 India–Pakistan military confrontation, and hinted a rift between Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership. Reportedly, he was put on the Exit Control List. Cyril Almeida belongs to a community of Goan Catholics who migrated to Karachi more than a hundred years ago. His family is said to speak Konkani at home. Many members of the community left for western countries after the partition, but about 15,000 members still live in Pakistan. After studying B.A. in Law in England, Almeida returned to Karachi. He practised law for about a year and changed careers to become a journalist with Dawn.
In October 2016, Dawn published a front-page article by Almeida, which said that some in the Pakistan’s civilian government confronted military officials at a top-secret national security Committee meeting. They said that they were being asked to do more to crack down on armed groups, yet, whenever law-enforcement agencies took action, “the security establishment … worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free”. He reported that the civilians warned that Pakistan risked international isolation if the security establishment didn’t crack down on terrorist groups operating from Pakistan.
Following the news article published, both the offices of Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif denied the version of events printed in the article and called it as a fabricated story. Sharif ordered authorities to take action against those responsible for publishing what he termed as a “fabricated” story about the military and ISI after the Pakistan’s chief of army staff Raheel Sharif called on him to discuss national and regional security issues.
The Editor-in-Chief of Dawn urged the government to refrain from “scapegoating” the newspaper in a “malicious campaign. 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. Unhappiness with a press report should never be used as an excuse to restrict the freedom of a journalist. The Karachi Press Club has asked the government to withdraw a travel ban on a Dawn journalist who reported alleged differences between the military and civilian leadership over terrorists.
This is not the first time that some journalist is being harassed by authorities or Pakistan government. Thirty one journalists were killed this year in Pakistan. Pakistan is fourth on the list of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists, and comes behind Mexico, Philippines and Iraq according to an International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report released. The report which chronicles journalist deaths since 1990, says that at least 2,297 journalists and media workers have been killed in the last 25 years, with Iraq ranking as the deadliest country with 309 killings followed by the Philippines (146), Mexico (120), Pakistan (115), Russian Federation (109), Algeria (106), India (95), Somalia (75), Syria (67) and Brazil (62).
Journalists lost their lives in targeted killings, bomb attacks, in the cross-fire and kidnappings in wars and armed conflicts across the globe while others were killed by organised crime barons and corrupt officials, the IFJ said. Some 112 journalists and media professionals were killed last year alone, although the peak year was 155 killings in 2006, it said. At least 2,297 journalists and media staff have been killed since 1990. With just one out of 10 killings investigated, the IFJ said failure to end the impunity for killings and other attacks on media professionals only fuels the violence against them. At least 71 journalists and media workers have lost their lives since 2001 while pursuing their duties in Pakistan. Of these, 47 have been deliberately targeted and murdered for practicing their profession, while others were killed while covering dangerous assignments. In only two cases have the murderers been convicted by the courts. Details of violence against media since 2001 are given below, highlighting the impunity attackers and murderers of journalists enjoy in Pakistan, undermining freedom of expression in the country. Pakistan ranks as the fifth worst country in the world in terms of the number of unresolved cases of violence against journalists. There are still at least 22 such cases open in Pakistan. Journalists continue to report threats from a number of sources – political parties, criminal groups, local mafias, terrorists and state security agencies. This means that Pakistan is in fifth place behind Somalia, Iraq, Syria and the Philippines in the index for countries where journalists are killed and the killers remain scot-free.
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