Islamabad: Cyril Almeida, the Pakistani journalist whose movements were yesterday restricted by the Nawaz Sharif government after he wrote about its rift with the all-powerful Pakistan army, said today he’s convinced “uglier actions” will be taken against him.
The Pakistan government early yesterday morning put Almeida on an ‘ Exit Control List ‘, which means it can stop him from leaving the country.
In his exclusive October 6 story for ‘Dawn’, Almeida reported that government officials complained they were being thwarted by security agencies in the country every time they took action against terrorists. They said Pakistan is facing international isolation and told the Army in no uncertain terms that it must crack down on terrorists, Almeida wrote.
Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on Monday ordered “stern action” against those responsible for publishing the Dawn article, or what he called a “fabricated” story.
Sources told TOI that Pakistan’s military was very upset with the Dawn story and prevailed over the Sharif government to even rephrase its initial denial of the Dawn report, which was perceived as too mild. Almeida’s report was published a week after India conducted surgical strikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir. The September 29 strikes were in retaliation for the September 18 terrorist attack in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad terrorists.
Observers believe this development doesn’t augur well for the media in Pakistan which has always been relatively robust. Almeida, too, is understandably upset.
Many in Pakistani civil society, including noted Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi, criticized the Sharif government for clamping down on the media. Sethi tweeted:
The government’s move to restrict Almeida came after Sharif held a meeting with his chief of army staff General Raheel Sharif, interior minister Nisar Ali Khan and top spy, the ISI’s Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar, on Monday.
Today, Dawn said it will continue to defend Almeida and his story. “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 (Exit Control List) and salvage some of its dignity,” Dawn said in an editor’s note.
Yesterday, Dawn “the elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger, and scapegoating the country’s most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign.”