- Almost every journalist has come down hard on civilian, military leadership for taking a harsh decision against a journalist which some claim is like shooting the messenger
Around Monday midnight, Cyril Almeida, the journalist who is caught in a storm for publishing a report which the government claimed was “fabricated”, tweeted that his name had been put on the Exit Control List (ECL), triggering an explosion at the popular social media sites, Twitter and Facebook.
“I am told and have been informed and have been shown evidence that I am on the Exit Control List,” tweeted the journalist.
In a follow up message, Cyril said he was confused why his name was put on the ECL as he had no intentions to leave the country. “Puzzled, saddened. Had no intention of going anywhere; this is my home. Pakistan”.
Almost every journalist came down hard over the civilian and military leadership for taking such a harsh decision against a journalist which some claimed was like shooting the “messenger”.
WHO FRAMED CYRIL?
A well-placed source privy to the developments claimed that the military never asked the civilian leadership for an action against the journalist who published the “fabricated news” which, according to the government, helped the Indian government launch propaganda against Pakistani military establishment for facilitating terrorist outfits.
“In a recent meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the military leadership requested for a probe to find out who had provided misleading and fabricated information to the journalist. However, instead of investigating the matter, the government decided to shoot the messenger, triggering a fresh row between the media and military,” the source added.
The source said that the military leadership had been pressing the Punjab government for allowing the paramilitary Rangers and other law enforcement agencies to carry out combing operations across Punjab in the wake of reports that many terrorists who had fled the country’s tribal belt to avoid arrest at the hands of military were now on the prowl.
“However, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif is resisting all such efforts. In the previously held meeting too, Shehbaz Sharif did not agree to this demand. Later, misleading information was leaked to the journalist which brought a bad name to the country as Indian media proliferated the report for ulterior motives,” the source added.
NO CONFIRMATION YET ON PUTTING CYRIL ON ECL
Even after the passage of almost 24 hours, no government official confirmed if the journalist was really on the ECL.
However, an official at the Ministry of Interior, wishing anonymity, confided to Pakistan Today that Cyril Almeida had been put on the ECL.
Under the recently adopted procedures, the Ministry of Interior itself rarely moves to put anyone’s name on the ECL. Rather, it does the needful on the recommendations of security agencies, including the FIA and police.
One thing is clear: Pakistani journalists would vehemently resist any effort to put curbs on their duty. Any effort to put constraints on or gag media would be resisted with full force.
However, it is intriguing to note that the associations which represent organisations of media owners, such as the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), are keeping silent over the targeting of the journalist, as no statement condemning the treatment being meted out to the journalist has been issued by them (till the filing of this report).
It seems that the media owners would have to take a decision whether they could brave the government’s dictates or they would stand up for a free press. For the time being, the media owners look a bit confused though.
On the other hand, it is beyond comprehension why the federal government is still mum over the ECL episode – as no confirmation or contradiction has been issued yet. Is the government playing up this issue to trigger army, media tensions in the heat of the moment?
Another question needs to be asked is whether the federal government would take action against those officials at the PM’s House who leaked the sensitive information to the journalist who is a mere messenger?
Another intriguing question which remains unanswered is that why no multi-sourcing was made before publishing of the story in Dawn. Since, we know Cyril Almeida is not a working reporter but an op-ed writer, so why the top management of the newspaper did not put its foot down to get the version from the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations.