Politics

Dawn Journalist Cyril Almeida Banned From Leaving Pakistan

Cyril Almeida, one of the most prominent Pakistani journalists, has been barred from leaving the country. Almeida said in a tweet Monday that he was put on the government’s Exit Control List, a border control system. Cyril Almeida, the assistant editor at Dawn, was put on the list just days after he published an exclusive scoop on a rift between the country’s civilian and military leadership.

Cyril Almeida
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

Cyril Almeida’s scoop on rift between civilian and military leadership

On October 6, citing sources who attended a top level meeting of the government and military officials, Cyril Almeida said the government had bluntly told military officials to act against militants or face international isolation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office has rejected the story thrice, calling it a fabricated news story. In a top-secret meeting, the government had said that whenever law-enforcement agencies took action against terrorists, “the security establishment worked behind the scene to set the arrested free,” according to Almeida.

The story had triggered a huge controversy when it was published. Almeida was supposed to fly to Dubai on Tuesday morning for a long-planned family holiday. But he was informed and shown evidence on Monday that he had been placed on the Exit Control List, so he won’t be allowed to board the plane.

Dawn says story was ‘verified, cross-checked, fact-checked’

Dawn’s editor-in-chief Zaffar Abbas said in an editorial that Cyril Almeida’s story was “verified, cross-checked, and fact-checked” before being published. During cross-checking, more than one source had confirmed and verified the details, said Zaffar Abbas. The editor-in-chief reiterated that Dawn was committed to fair, accurate, and independent reporting.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office described the report as “speculative, misleading and factually incorrect.” At a meeting of top civilian and military officials on Monday, participants expressed concerns over the “fabricated news story” on national security issues. The Prime Minister’s Office said the story had risked the state interests through “inclusion of inaccurate and misleading contents.”

It comes at a time of heightened tensions between Pakistan and India. The Indian government recently claimed that its army commandos conducted a cross-border “surgical strike” targeting terrorist launch pads. Pakistan has outrightly rejected India’s claims of any such surgical strike.

Media freedom or misuse of media?

Moments after Pakistani government’s decision to put Cyril Almeida on the Exit Control List, hundreds of senior journalists and rights activists came out in support of the Dawn reporter. They have declared support for Almeida and press freedom. English-language newspapers are considered the last enclaves of media freedom in Pakistan.

On the other hand, many in the general public have criticized Almeida for using media freedom to malign Pakistan Army. Relations between the country’s civilian and military leadership have often been tumultuous. Pakistan has seen three military coups since independence.