"Well, I'm not familiar with the specifics (of the case), and I don't know all of the details," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday when asked about the decision of the Pakistan government to expel the two Indian journalists.
Press Trust of India's (PTI) Snehesh Alex Philip and Hindu newspaper's Meena Menon received letters late Monday night from Pakistan government's External Publicity Wing informing them that an unnamed "competent authority" had decided against any extension of their visas. "As a general principle, we support the ability of journalists to freely report on countries around the world, every country, and that would include Pakistan and that would include Indian journalists in Pakistan and Pakistani journalists in India. So that would be our general view, but I don't know the specifics of the case," Carney said.
When asked about the US assessment of the freedom of the press in Pakistan, Carney said there are harrowing reports prepared by international bodies that monitor the circumstances confronting journalists around the world. "And it is often worth noting that in a country like the United States, where we rightly debate issues related to freedom of the press, that there are places around the world where the attempts to squelch that freedom too often include homicide, murder of journalists and other steps that are taken to silence free and independent journalists and prevent them from reporting on the facts around the world," he said.
"That is something that we take very seriously here in this country and sometimes take for granted, and we shouldn't," Carney said. Philip and Menon, the only two Indian journalists in Pakistan, have been in Islamabad for just about nine months. They have been asked to leave by May 20. Reacting strongly to the decision, Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said not allowing independent journalists to function was a "retrograde step" and termed the expulsion of the scribes as "regrettable and unfortunate".