- HRCP, PFUJ demand withdrawal of all curbs against journalist
The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) on Monday demanded the government withdraw its decision of putting the name of Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida on the Exit Control List (ECL), while the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) asked the government to immediately withdraw all restrictions on the journalist, including travel ban.
In a statement, CPNE President Zia Shahid said the CPNE, being the representative organisation of the newspaper editors of Pakistan, was of the view that the constitution guaranteed freedom of expression.
“The Prime Minister’s House and Punjab Chief Minister’s House have refuted the story and the same was published by all newspapers, including Dawn. Despite that, if the government feels the said story is fabricated, it reserves the right to take legal action. However, only the competent court of law can decide if the stance of the government or that of the newspaper is right. Without giving the right to defend, unilateral action against a person or an organisation is contrary to the freedom guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan,” said the CPNE chief.
“National newspapers publish stories with full responsibility and in the light of their investigation. Only a court of law has the right to judge if a story is correct or wrong. It is hoped that keeping in view the freedom of press guaranteed in the constitution, no one-sided decision will be taken and the supremacy of the constitution and the law will be respected which is mandatory for every democratic and independent society,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Tuesday demanded the government immediately withdraw all restrictions on English daily staffer Cyril Almeida and address grievances “in accordance with the law, due process and universally acknowledged freedoms of opinion and expression.”
“Barring Cyril Almeida from travelling abroad and the apparent pressure on his employers, the highly respected English daily, will cause distress to all those, at home and abroad, who believe in the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists. This is not the time to turn the international journalist community against Pakistan,” the HRCP said.
“It seems that the authorities are overreacting to a story by Cyril, which touches on journalists’ responsibilities in times of trial. HRCP believes that civil-military relations are not a subject beyond the concerns of working journalists or the people at large,” it added.
The HRCP called upon the authorities to remove Almeida’s name from the ECL and “refrain from harassing him and intimidating his employers.”
The HRCP said, “Under the revised thinking on the matter it has been decided that any person whose freedom of movement is to be curtailed must be heard before his name is added to the ECL.”
“We realise that Pakistan is passing through difficult times, but we are convinced more than ever that wisdom lies in respecting freedom of expression, rather than suppressing it because neither national unity can be achieved nor any issues of governance resolved by finding scapegoats among journalists,” the statement said.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) also flayed the inclusion of Almeida’s name on the ECL, terming it a violation of Article 19 of the constitution that ensures freedom of press.
“Putting the name of Cyril on the ECL does not suit the democratically elected government,” the PFUJ said.
“It is tantamount to harassment of journalists which is unacceptable to the PFUJ,” said PFUJ Ad Hoc Committee Chairman Muhammad Riaz. “We have serious concerns about his safety and security,” he said.