Pakistan’s immigration authorities have denied entry to Steven Butler, a veteran journalist who currently serves as coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Asia Programme.
In a statement, CPJ said an official at the Lahore airport cited a ‘stop list’ managed by the federal interior ministry as he forced Butler to return to the United States.
“A border officer at the 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’,” read the statement.
Butler had arrived in the country for the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan.
“Subsequently, Butler’s passport was confiscated and he was put on a flight to back to Washington DC via Doha, Qatar. Butler told CPJ that he was in ‘a kind of restricted custody’ and his passport and boarding pass was in the possession of the flight crew,” the statement further said.
CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon denounced the move as “baffling” and “a slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom in the country.”
“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.”
The federal interior ministry is yet to issue an official statement on the matter and ministry officials remained unavailable for comments.