Foreign media organisations sent a letter of protest on Friday to the information minister against the expulsion of Declan Walsh, The New York Times bureau chief for Islamabad.
The letter sent to the Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid sought re-instatement of Walsh’s visa.
With the signatures of 17 heads of prominent foreign media outlets in Pakistan, the letter states: “Mr Walsh is a respected journalist of high standing who has lived and worked in Pakistan for nine years for both The Guardian and The New York Times newspapers but in the early morning hours of May 9, police officers delivered a two-sentence letter to Mr Walsh’s home in Islamabad informing him that his visa was cancelled because of unspecified “undesirable activities” and ordering him to leave the country within 72 hours.”
Walsh received no further explanation of his alleged wrongdoing despite repeated requests. He was eventually escorted by security forces to the airport in Lahore and forced to fly out of the country on May 12, it said.
“We fully recognise the Pakistani government’s legal right to control who enters the country and to accredit foreign journalists. But we do not agree with the use of this power to stifle freedom of the press,” it added.
The manner in which the Pakistani government expelled Walsh runs counter to its claims of respecting press freedom and threatens the entire journalist community of the country.
“We therefore ask the government to reinstate Mr Walsh’s visa and allow him to return to the country in line with the nation’s stated commitment to press freedom,” the letter said.
The information minister Pervaiz Rashid when contacted, told The Express Tribune: “I have not seen the letter yet, therefore I am not in a position to comment on the issue, once I’ll receive the letter, I’ll talk to the interior minister and then we will determine what to do next.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2013.