Lahore: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) in expressing concerns over Pakistan’s decision to deny visa extensions to the only two Indian journalists based in Islamabad, serving them one weeks’ notice to leave the country.
Pakistan authorities declined to renew the visas of Meena Menon of The Hindunewspaper and Snehesh Philip of the Press Trust of India on May 13 – meaning they must leave the country by tomorrow, May 20. The Ministry of Information in Pakistan informed the journalists that their visas wouldn’t be renewed after they applied for an extension. Both had been working from Pakistan since August 2013.
Pakistan and India have an agreement that each nation is allowed two journalists in each other’s capital: one from a newswire and another from a newspaper. There has not been a Pakistani journalist in Delhi since 2011.
The IFJ and the DUJ urge Pakistani authorities to reconsider the decision to deny the two journalists’ visas.
A DUJ statement signed by General Secretary S.K. Pande and President Sujata Madhok said: “Such moves will foster further misunderstandings instead of bridging the political distance between the two neighboring countries.”
The DUJ also said the Indian government should provide visas and facilities to journalists from Pakistan who wish to report from New Delhi, to encourage mutual understanding and cooperation between the peoples and governments of India and Pakistan.
The IFJ is deeply concerned at the Pakistan authorities’ failure to extend the visas for foreign media in Pakistan and said that it goes against the commitment to media freedom made by Prime Minister Nawas Sharif earlier this year. Journalist visas are processed by the Ministry of Interior, but the military and its intelligence arm, the Inter-Services Intelligence, have the final say over who is allowed to stay.
The IFJ said: “In March this year, Prime Minister Sharif made a commitment to put press freedom firmly on the government’s agenda. Yet the denial of visas certainly does not hold true to that commitment.
“The journalist exchange between India and Pakistan is hugely important when it comes to bridging the divide between the two countries. It is a deep shame that the open exchange of information that comes from this foreign correspondents arrangement is being threatened.”
Last year in May, the Pakistan government expelled Declan Walsh, the bureau chief of The New York Times without explanation after nine years working in the country. Despite heavy lobbying, his visa is yet to be renewed.