ISLAMABAD – After facing criticism from rights activists and journalists’ bodies, the government yesterday removed the name of journalist Cyril Almeida from ‘no fly list’ as a good will gesture after a meeting with the representatives of the press.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered removal of Almeida’s name from the ‘Exit Control List’ following his meeting with the representatives of All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) – two separate bodies representing the print media in Pakistan.
The government had paced the name of Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida’s name on ECL last week following publication of his story in Dawn on October 6 showing that there was rift between civil and military leadership on the issue of dealing with the local extremists and militant groups.
Soon after the decision, the interior ministry issued a notification about the deletion of Almeida’s name from ECL that was immediately circulated to the immigration authorities of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), other departments concerned and intelligence agencies.
“Reiterating full support to freedom of press and independence of media and as a goodwill gesture, the interior minister today ordered removal of the name of the journalist from Exit Control List who had filed inaccurate and fabricated news item about (a) national security meeting,” the interior ministry said.
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office also rejected the story thrice since its publication. In an Editor’s note, Dawn clarified its position and stated on the record that the story “was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.”
Cyril Almeida tweeted soon after the news of deletion of his name in response to a tweet that demanded his trial under Army Act and the law of high treason and said: “No plans to travel anywhere other than to see mum, nephews in their home in Khi (Karachi). Not sure why (an impression was created that) I’d run away from my home, which is Pakistan.”
However, the interior ministry said that removal of name of the journalist would in no way affect the ongoing inquiry into the matter and the inquiry would continue to its logical conclusion.
The interior minister the other day had said that the government would complete an inquiry about the source of the news and all persons on the radar of the government in this regard would not be allowed to go abroad till the completion of inquiry. He also said that journalist’s name was put on ECL after the government knew about his plans to travel abroad. “How we can complete the inquiry when the central character (Almeida) would be abroad,” he had said.
Talking to the delegation of APNS and CPNE, Nisar reiterated his call that independent media must play its role not only towards safeguarding national interests and security but also to counter negative propaganda of the enemies of state.
“Unverified and speculative news items citing unnamed sources on national security issues must be refrained that cross ethical boundaries of responsible journalism,” he added.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed and Principal Information Officer Rao Tehsin Ali Khan were also present during the meeting. Pervaiz Rashid said the government had firm belief in freedom of press and had proved it time and again that it couldn’t compromise on it.
The APNS and CPNE delegation consisted of APNS President Sarmad Ali and Secretary General Aijaz Ul Haq, CPNE President Zia Shahid and Secretary General Umar Shami, and senior journalists Arif Nizami and Mujeeb ur Rahman Shami.