Media resistance on placing Pakistan’s leading newspaper staffer on ECL
The ban imposed on travel of noted journalist Cyril Almeida, assistant editor of daily Dawn dominated the coverage of media in Pakistan. During the week 50 news out of 58 in print and 97 stories out of 122 in TV.
The decision of putting journalist’s name was widely condemned and people from all over the world showed their support to the journalist on social media. The top trends on twitter, includes #WestandwithCyrilAlmeida and #WeareCyrilAlmeida.
Dawn on October 11 reported that the name of Almeida had been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), to prevent him from traveling overseas. These restrictions were in reaction to the story “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military” published in Dawn on October 6.
The story covered the details of meeting of National Security Committee in which the prime minister, Punjab chief minister and government officials raised concerns over the suspended action against several militant groups, due to their suspected closeness to intelligence agencies. Although the prime minister’s office and the Punjab CM’s office thrice denied the facts covered in the story. According to the statement, “Prime Minister took serious notice of the violation and directed that those responsible should be identified for stern action”.
Editor, Zafar Abbas gave Dawn’s position which states that; “First, this newspaper considers it a sacred oath to its readers to pursue its reporting fairly, independently and, above all, accurately. The story that has been rejected by PM office as a fabrication was verified, cross checked and fact checked.”
“Second, many at the helm of affairs are aware of the senior officials and participants of the meeting who were contacted by the newspaper for collecting information and more than one source confirmed and verified the details. Therefore, the elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger and scapegoating the country’s most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign.”
Dunya, Capital TV, Abb Takk, Aaj News aired tickers while ARY News and Neo News aired breaking news on October 10 while The Nation and Qaumi Akhbar on October 11 reported that the political and military leadership analyzed the internal and external security with the aim to eradicate the impression created by a part of media. Presiding over the meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took serious notice of the news story published in an English newspaper.
An official statement was released after the meeting that the participants were of the view that “risked the vital state interests through inclusion of inaccurate and misleading contents which had no relevance to actual discussion and facts”. They believed that “it was imperative that print and electronic media refrain itself from speculative reporting”, especially on the issue of national security and state interest.
Dawn on October 11 reported the statement of PTI leader Dr. Shireen Mazari posted on her Twitter account on October 10. Dr. Mazari tweeted, “Reporters cannot be held accountable for publishing stories relating to sensitive leaks when the source is either the civilian or the military leadership or others attending these meeting.” The party urged to immediately investigate the matter and serious action should be taken against those responsible for leaking the details of a meeting between the civilian and the military leaderships last week.
Dunya News in its program “On the Front” also discussed the issue of Almeida and criticized the journalist for his story in a statement Ali Muhammad Khan member of PTI said, “Pakistan is more important than any Cyril Almeida, Dawn or Jang.”
Dawn News aired a detailed news while The News, The Nation, Business Recorder, Dawn, The Express Tribune, Jang, Intekhab on October 12 reported that different human rights organizations and media bodies have strongly condemned the decision of government to put the name of journalist Almeida columnist and reporter of Pakistan’s largest media group Dawn on Exit Control List (ECL) and banned him to travel.
Media and human rights organizations including the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Amnesty International, International Press Institute (IPI), Peshawar Press Club, National Press Club, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ), Karachi Press Club and Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) condemned the government’s decision and urged the government to immediately revoke all the restrictions on Dawn’s Assistant Editor Almeida.
Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues said, “The travel ban on Cyril Almeida is a crude intimidation tactic designed to silence journalists and stop them from doing their jobs,”
APNS strongly opposed this step and reminds the government that print media in this country had always remained the foundation of democracy and any attempt to suppress it will be an attack on the foundation of democracy.
In a statement HRCP said, ‘It seems that authorities are overreacting to a story by Cyril, which touches on journalists’ responsibilities in times of trial.
In a joint statement by CPNE President Zia Shahid and its secretary general Aijazul Haq said that as the representatives of newspaper editors of Pakistan, we think that constitution assure freedom of expression.
The Nation on October 12 reported that a large number of journalists and intellectuals including Abbas Nasir, Amir Zia, Ansar Abbasi, Shahzeb Khanzada, Arshad Sharif, Hamid Mir, Beena Sarwar, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed unity with Almeida on social media.
Abbas Nasir wrote: “Had @cyalm shredded the Constitution; acquired properties abroad via offshore companies, dodgy wealth he’d be free to travel abroad”.
Shahzeb Khanzada, in his tweet questioned: “banned outfits can roam around freely, do rallies but a journalist has been put on ECL for a story.”
Hamid Mir strongly condemned putting the name of Almeida on ECL and said, “There is no treason case against him. We know who was facing treason trial.”
On October 12 Dawn’s editorial titled “Reaction to Dawn story”; while on 14th October Daily The News editorial titled “Journalist on ECL” and editorial titled “Putting Journalists on ECL” in Pakistan Today was in defense and support of Almeida.
The Nation in a hard hitting editorial titled “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” wrote that “How dare the government and military top brass lecture the press on how to do their job. How dare they treat a feted reporter like a criminal? And how dare they imply that they have either the right or the ability or the monopoly to declare what Pakistan’s “national interest” is.
Throughout the week different news channels including Dawn, Aaj News, Neo News, ARY News, Capital TV, Dunya News, Geo News, Jaag TV, Samaa, Abb Takk, News One, 92 News also discussed the different aspects of the matter in their programs i.e, denial of government over Dawn story, version of military leadership and strongly criticized government’s decision to put journalist’s name on ECL.
Meeting between APNS, CPNE and the federal Interior Ministry reads to removal of Almeida’s travel ban
Geo News, Samaa, News One, Dawn News, Capital TV, ARY News, Aaj News, Abb Takk, 92 News on October 13 while The News, The Nation, Amn, Jang, Roznama Pakistan, Nawa-i-Waqt on October 14 reported the press conference at which the removal of Almeida’s travel ban was announced.
While speaking at the press conference Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali said that Almeida’s name was placed on ECL upon receiving information about his plans to travel abroad. His presence in the country was mandatory as he has to face an inquiry into the matter of national security. He further added that a committee has been formed to explore the matter and the investigation would be completed in three to four days.
92 news, Aaj News, Geo News aired breaking news and headlines on October 14 while The Express Tribune, The News, Dunya, Roznama Pakistan, Roznama Express on October 15 reported that the army expressed serious concern over the ‘feeding of a false and fabricated news story’, and declared it a violation of national security in a meeting held after the Cyril name was put off from ECL.
Amn and Roznama Pakistan on October 16 reported that Interior Minister Nisar met Dawn newspaper’s editor Mr Abbas on October 15. During the meeting they discussed the inquiry in the matter of story published in Dawn newspaper. Interior minister said that the purpose of investigation is to unveil all the aspects of the story.
PEMRA starts crackdown on illegal Indian DTH
Neo, Aaj News aired ticker and breaking news, The Nation published news story on October 15 and ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn, Geo News, NEO News, aired tickers, headlines and breaking news and Dawn published news story on October 16 reported that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) starts crackdown against illegal Indian Direct to Home (DTH) in the country. In a statement PEMRA said that teams consist of officials from the authority and police will start carrying out raids across the country.
The elements found involved in the illegal Indian Home channels business may face imprisonment up to four years and a fine up to ten million rupees.
PAT sends legal notice to Channel 24
Business Recorder on October 15 reported that Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has sent a legal notice to Arif Nizami and Chaudhry Ghulam Hussain of TV Channel 24 for making baseless, bogus and hateful statements against party chairman Tahir ul Qadri. The notice stated, “You have claimed in your talk show that mother of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif contacted Allama Tahir ul Qadri and asked him not to join Imran Khan’s protest march at Raiwind. Besides you alleged that PAT chief received Rs 80 million as compensation of his expenses.” “PAT demanded airing of live apology or face the legal action” says the notice.
Cable Media Association blocked Indian channels
Aaj News aired detailed news on October 10 while The News and Jang on October 11 reported that the Cable Media Association organized a protest demonstration outside the PEMRA office Lahore against Indian aggression. The association blocked all Indian channels and also raised slogan in support of Pak Army.
The News Employees Union Elections
Jang on October 10, The News on October 11 reported that ‘The News Employees Union (Karachi) election 2016-17’. Muhammad Shakeel Khan of the Democratic Panel won for the post of president with 117 votes while Dara Zafar was elected as the general-secretary with 131 votes. 178 voters out of 202 have casted their votes.
TV anchor’s Facebook page hacked
The Nation on October 12 reported that the Facebook page of Waqt TV’s news and current affairs anchor Ehtisham-ur-Rehman was hacked by Indian hackers and they posted anti-Pakistan words, offensive comments and Indian flags on his official page.
During the week PPF monitored 122 news, tickers, headlines and programs related to Pakistani media that were covered in the following television channels – 92 News, Aaj News, Abb Takk, ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Dunya News, Express News, Geo News, Jaag News, Khyber News, KTN, Neo News, News One, Samaa and TV One.
There were 58 news items, editorials published in 16 English and Urdu dailies of Pakistan that include Dawn, The News, The Nation, The Express Tribune, Business Recorder, Pakistan Today, Regional Times, Jang, Dunya, Roznama Express, Nawa-i-Waqt, Intikhab, Quami Akhbar, Amn, Roznama Pakistan.