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Pakistani scribe Cyril Almeida, put on exit control list, fears Pak govt may take 'uglier actions'

Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida, who reported a rift between the civilian and military leaderships over the powerful ISI shielding terror groups like the Haqqani network and LeT, has tweeted that he thinks the Pakistani government "is planning to take further, uglier actions."

Almeida, a columnist and reporter for the Dawn newspaper, had earlier tweeted he had been told that he was put on 'Exit Control List' — a system of border control maintained by Pakistan government which allows it to bar people whose names appear on the list from leaving the country.

The government has not officially commented on the ban, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday had asked authorities to take "stern action" against people responsible for publishing the "fabricated" story.

Meanwhile, the widely read daily — also the country's oldest — had on Tuesday stood by the story issued on 6 October, saying it was "verified, cross-checked and fact-checked".

 Pakistani scribe Cyril Almeida, put on exit control list, fears Pak govt may take uglier actions

Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida. Image courtesy: Twitter @cyalm

The story, carried by the paper on its front page, had said that facing international isolation, Sharif in an unprecedented move has warned the powerful military not to shield banned militant groups and directed authorities to conclude the Pathankot terror attack probe and the 2008 Mumbai attack trial.

It mentioned a rift between Pakistan's civilian and military leaderships over jihadi groups operating from Pakistan that engage in war against India and Afghanistan like the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed for the Mumbai attack.

The newspaper in a message issued by its editor on Tuesday had said that "many at the helm of affairs are aware of the senior officials, and participants of the meeting, who were contacted by the newspaper for collecting information, and more than one source confirmed and verified the details".

It had also called the whole episode as "scape-goating the country's most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign" and asked the elected government and state institutions to "refrain from targeting the messenger".

Meanwhile, the US has expressed concern over the difficulties and dangers faced by journalists in Pakistan but refrained from commenting on the travel restrictions imposed on Almeida for reporting a rift between the civilian and military leaderships.

"I'm aware of the reports of restrictions on Mr (Cyril) Almeida's travel. I would refer you to the Government of Pakistan for information on that," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference on Tuesday.

"On press freedom, it's obviously an issue that we continue to raise regularly with the government of Pakistan, including our concerns about the difficulties and the dangers that journalists face there," he said.

"We are concerned about any efforts to limit press freedom or the ability of journalists to conduct their very, very important work," Kirby said.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged Pakistan to "immediately lift the travel ban" on Almeida.

"Pakistan can be a dangerous place for journalists, but the nation has a proud tradition of a fiercely independent press," said CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Steven Butler.

"Unhappiness with a press report should never be used as an excuse to restrict the freedom of a journalist," he added.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Oct 12, 2016 10:39:23 IST