Cyril Almeida, reporter and columnist for Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English daily newspaper, was placed on an “Exit Control List (ECL)” to prevent him from leaving the country, after the publication of his story on a meeting between the top civil and military leadership of the country on international pressures on Pakistan to curb militant organisations.
The government action was taken on October 10, 2016, four days after his story “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military” on a meeting in which “blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning,” was given by the civilian government to the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan unless it acted against three militant groups.
Almeida said he had planned to go to Dubai on October 11 on a family vacation but was informed and “shown evidence” a day earlier that his name had been placed on the Exit Control List.
Earlier, the spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office had condemned Almeida’s report as speculative, misleading, factually incorrect, and an “amalgamation of fiction and fabrication”. Another statement by the Office of the Prime Minister said participants at the meeting of the top civilian and military leadership expressed concern over the “fabricated story”. The statement added that the Prime Minister “took serious notice of the violation and directed that those responsible should be identified for stern action”.
The newspaper however, stands by the story. In a statement, Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn, said the story had been “verified, cross-checked and fact-checked”.
The action of preventing Almeida from traveling has been widely condemned by journalists and media organisations throughout Pakistan. In a statement issued on October 11, Zia Shahid, President and Secretary General, and Aijazul Haq of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) demanded the government withdraw its decision to put the name of Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida on the Exit Control List, noting that the action was against Pakistan’s Constitution which guarantees freedom of the press.