ISLAMABAD – A Pakistani journalist says he has been barred from leaving the country after his newspaper published an article of his contending there was a rift between the government and military leaders over fighting Islamic militants.
Cyril Almeida tweeted late Monday that his name has been added to the government’s “exit control list,” adding that he has no immediate plans to travel. Pakistani officials could not be reached for comment.
The Dawn published Almeida’s article on its front page last week. The government has since issued three statements denying any such rift, including on Monday, when it vowed “stern action” against those responsible for the story, which it says “risked vital state interests.” The newspaper has stood by the story.
Civil-military relations are a taboo subject in Pakistan, which has a long history of military coups.
Amnesty International called on the government to lift all restrictions on Almeida and said reporters in Pakistan should be able to work freely and without fear of retribution. It said the travel ban is “a crude intimidation tactic designed to silence journalists.”
Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission said media have the right to cover civil-military relations. It said any objections to the article should be pursued through legal avenues.
In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday the U.S. was aware of reports of restrictions on Almeida’s travel. “We’re concerned about any efforts to limit press freedom or the ability of journalists to conduct their very, very important work,” Kirby told reporters.