Saturday Oct 19, 2019
Pakistani immigration authorities in Lahore denied entry to Steven Butler, a member of a leading international media watchdog, earlier this week, citing a blacklist managed by the Ministry of Interior.
Steven Butler, who is the Asia Program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said he was stopped at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport on Wednesday and told by an immigration officer that his journalist visa was valid, but it was voided because his name was "on a stop list of the Interior Ministry".
Butler had a valid journalist visa and was traveling to Pakistan to participate in the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan, according to the CPJ and organisers of the event.
The CPJ and other rights organisations strongly criticised Pakistani authorities for denying entry to Butler, calling the move a "slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom".
"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."
Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, called the move "alarming" and demanded the government "reverse the decision and take urgent steps towards providing an enabling environment for free expression".
Munizae Jahangir, an organiser of the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan, said the theme of the conference was freedom of expression.
"If they are doing this to a member of a media watchdog what else is left?" she said.