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US expresses concern over restrictions on journalists in Pakistan

ANI | Updated: Oct 19, 2019 11:18 IST

Washington [US], Oct 19 (ANI): The United States has expressed concern over restrictions on journalists in Pakistan after the country's authorities denied entry to the head of Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) Steven Butler.

Pakistani authorities at Lahore International airport told Butler on Friday that his journalist visa was valid but he was barred for entering the country as his name was "on a stop list" of the Interior Ministry. Butler was to speak at a human rights conference in Lahore over the weekend, reported Al Jazeera.

The US' Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells urged Pakistan to reconsider its decision to bar Butler.

"Refusing entry to the coordinator of a press freedom program w/a valid visa increases concerns about restrictions on journalists in Pak. A free & independent media is indispensable to any democracy, and we urge Pakistan to reconsider this decision," Wells tweeted on Friday.

Butler told Al Jazeera said he was sent back to Doha. "The officers did say they recognized that I had a valid visa. Some papers were prepared, but they were not given to me."

CPJ's executive director Joel Simon also condemned Butler's deportation.

"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.

"Pakistani authorities should give a full explanation of their decision to bar Butler from entering and correct this error. If the government is interested in demonstrating its commitment to a free press, it should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this case, "added Simon

Notably, Islamabad ranked 142 in Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) Press Freedom Index for 2019. It is down from 139 last year.

On Wednesday, Pakistani journalists had held a country-wide protest against police brutality faced by a local reporter in Lahore. The protest took place after police officials beat up Pakistani journalist Usman Ahmed Bhatti for covering the appearance of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz PML(N) -- leader Hamza Shahba in court, Geo News reported. (ANI)