Pakistan has ordered the only two Indian journalists stationed in the country to leave within a week, telling them their visas would not be renewed, a move denounced by India as “a retrograde step.”
Meena Menon of The Hindu newspaper and Snehesh Alex Philip of the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency were given letters late on Tuesday telling them they must leave Pakistan by May 20.
Both journalists had been posted in Pakistan for less than a year and no reason was given for the decision to deny them new visas. In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said,
“free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognised as an important confidence building measure.”
The expulsion of the Indian reporters comes days before the results of India’s general election, which the opposition BJP is expected to win.
Since the 1980s, India and Pakistan have allowed a small number of journalists to work in each others’ capital cities, but there has been no Pakistani reporter in New Delhi since 2010.
“Their visas expired and they were informed that there will not be further extensions,” a Pakistan information ministry official said on condition of anonymity to news agency AFP.
MK Razdan, the editor-in-chief and CEO of PTI, said there was “no rationale and no reason” for the move.
“It is a unilateral action and absolutely no reason has been given,” Mr Razdan said. He added it was too early to say whether the agency would apply to send a replacement for Philip.
The Pakistan government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has sought to improve ties with India since its election in May last year.
Indian journalists working in Pakistan have complained in the past of harassment by authorities including constant monitoring by intelligence agents.
Just days before the general election last May, the New York Times correspondent in Pakistan, Declan Walsh, was expelled at short notice with little explanation given.