LAHORE: Journalists and workers of different observatory bodies have alleged that they were refused entry into polling stations to monitor the election process despite having accreditation cards issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
“This is tantamount to curbing freedom of media and put the whole election process into doubt,” Rai Shahnawaz, a reporter of a national television channel, told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
He added that he visited over 50 polling stations in NA-120 and was not allowed entry into anyone of them despite having an election commission accreditation card by the law enforcement agencies. He said the ECP accreditation card clearly stated, “I am permitted to visit polling stations and offices to observe polling, counting and consolidation of results for the by-election.”
Shahnawaz maintained that he as a journalist and law abiding citizen protested against denying him his fundamental right by the law enforcement agencies.
He condemned the treatment meted out to him at polling stations and tweeted, “When I argued that I have accreditation to monitor the electoral process, the military man said ‘Ooper say order nahi hai.”
Mian Aslam, another reporter of a national media channel said, “The election commission issued accreditation cards to media members to observe election process but the army officials refused entry of journalists into the polling stations. They said that these cards were not valid.
Senior journalist Amin Hafeez and Zahid Chaudhry complained of the same issue faced by other media persons. Besides journalists, representatives of other observatory bodies, including Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) also faced similar problems. At least, nine FAFEN representatives were not permitted to enter the polling stations.
A representative of FAFEN, requesting anonymity, said that he was also not allowed entry into the polling stations to observe the polling process. Abdul Ahad, a senior official of FAFEN, told The Express Tribune that their observers were stopped at eight polling stations.
When the issue was highlighted and journalists protested against the move, the law enforcement personnel allowed some selective media persons to enter the polling stations at around 3 pm.
When contacted, Election Commission of Pakistan Spokesperson Huda Gohar said that media was allowed inside the polling stations. “Only those journalists, who were carrying cameras, were not allowed,” she added.
ISPR in its statement also denied the allegations and said that journalists having ECP accreditation cards visited the polling stations in NA-120 and no restrictions were imposed by army.