CPJ rejects Pakistani government claim on US scribe expulsion

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New York, Jan 17 (UNI) The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has rejected the Pakistan government's claim that the organisation's stance on the expulsion of US journalist Nicholas Schmidle was misleading and factually incorrect.

Islamabad had alleged that Schmidle was not doing his journalistic duties and indulging in other activities.

Pakistan Foreign ministry made the allegation in a prepared opening statement at a press briefing in Islamabad yesterday.

''We reject the ministry's accusations,'' Executive Director Joel Simon of the CPJ said.

''Nicholas worked openly as a journalist in Pakistan for almost two years and the government was fully aware of his activities. The fact that Pakistan expelled him after he wrote an article critical of their activities makes it clear he was punished for his work as a journalist, he added.

CPJ is an independent New York-based non-profit body set up to help journalists around the world.

Schmidle left the country five days after his report, Next-Gen Taliban, appeared in the New York Times magazine on January 6.

The article contained interviews with anti-government Taliban leaders and was reported from Baluchistan province and its capital Quetta.

Yesterday, CPJ spoke with Schmidle, who said, ''I was in Pakistan as a researcher and writer, and a fellow for the Institute of Current World Affairs (ICWA). I was writing articles for them when I was in Pakistan. I also openly worked as a journalist for many publications in the 23 months I was in the country and never made any attempt to hide my identity, all of my articles were bylined with my name.

''My visa had no travel restrictions, and when I did travel to areas which require additional permissions, such as the port city of Gwadar, I sought and was given permission to go there,'' Schmidle told CPJ.

''When ICWA and I applied for my visa we asked for a journalist's visa and we made it clear that I would also be reporting from Pakistan while meeting my responsibilities for ICWA,'' he informed the CPJ.

''We were told that it would be better to apply for a research visa, which we did,'' he added.

Ever since President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on December 3 which was later lifted around mid-December, curbs on the news media largely remain.

''We are accustomed to reporting on the government's attacks on the local media, which have increased as the security situation in the country has deteriorated. We see the deportation of Schmidle as part of a larger policy toward the media that increasingly seeks to stifle criticism from any quarter,'' the CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.


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