Rights groups slam Pakistan after media watchdog member denied entry

19 October, 2019 12:00 AM printer

ISLAMABAD: Rights organisations have slammed Pakistani authorities after a member of a leading media watchdog was denied entry to the country, calling the move a “slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom”, reports AFP.

Immigration officials at Lahore airport Thursday told Steven Butler—the Asia programme coordinator of The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) — he was on an Interior Ministry “stop list”, the rights group said.

Butler had travelled to Pakistan on a valid visa to attend a human rights conference in Lahore, according to CPJ and organisers of the event.

After arriving in the country, Pakistani officials confiscated his travel documents and Bulter was put on a plane back to Doha and later to Washington, CPJ said.

“Pakistani authorities’ move to block Steven Butler from entering the country is baffling and is a slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom in the country,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director, said in a statement.

“If the government is interested in demonstrating its commitment to a free press, it should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this case.” Last year, Butler had authored a CPJ report warning that the powerful Pakistani military had “quietly, but effectively, set restrictions on reporting”.

Pakistan’s ministry of interior and information both refused to comment on the case when contacted by AFP.

The organiser of the event also voiced concerns.

Earlier this week Pakistani news outlet Geo announced that they were unable to broadcast a press conference of a leading opposition member.