New York, October 27 (CPJ/OurVoice) — Last week Pakistani immigration authorities denied entry to CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler, citing a blacklist managed by the Ministry of Interior.
A border officer at Allama Iqbal International Airport, in Lahore, told Butler that his journalist visa was valid, but it was voided because his name was “on a stop list of the Interior Ministry,” Butler said.
Airport authorities in Lahore confiscated Butler’s passport and forced him onto a flight to Doha, Qatar. When he arrived in Doha, authorities there placed him on a flight to Washington, D.C. Butler, who communicated with CPJ while on the flight, said he was in “a kind of restricted custody” and said that the flight crew was in possession of his passport and boarding pass.
“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.”
Butler was traveling to the country to participate in the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan.
Media and human rights groups including IFEX members condemn Pakistan’s decision to prevent the entry of Steven Butler, who was scheduled to speak at a human rights conference, said in a press release Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).
Owais Aslam Ali, secretary general of the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), pointed out the irony that Pakistani officials have in fact been quoting CPJ reports in recent months about the impact of the communications blackout and other media restrictions in India-occupied Kashmir. He echoed the warning of other media groups that the action by immigration authorities will damage the image of Pakistan as a country committed to respecting freedom of the press.
Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch (HRW) called Butler’s deportation “alarming” and urged the Pakistani government to “reverse the decision and take urgent steps towards providing an enabling environment for free expression.”