Lahore : The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has demanded that all curbs on journalist Cyril Almeida travelling abroad must be immediately withdrawn and any grievance that the authorities might have against him must be dealt with in accordance with the law, due process and universally acknowledged freedoms of opinion and expression.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission stated: “Barring Cyril Almeida from travelling abroad and the apparent pressure on his employers, the highly respected Dawn newspaper, 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.
“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.
“The arbitrary placing of names on the Exit Control List (ECL) has been in debate for long and 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 realize that Pakistan is passing through difficult times but we are convinced, more than ever, that wisdom lies in respecting the 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.
“HRCP calls upon the authorities to immediately remove Cyril’s name from the ECL and refrain from harassing him and intimidation of his employers. We must also stress that whatever matters are of concern to the establishment must be dealt with in accordance with the law, freedom of expression and other rights of citizens, particularly with regard to the due legal process.”