India’s refusal to permit writers to visit Pakistan censured


India’s refusal to permit a gaggle of India-based foreign journalists to visit Pakistan via the Wagah border crossing has stoked concern about press freedom in India.

A group of 5 journalists was invited by the Pakistan government to attend the Aug 5 session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislature, besides meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan and other officials.

The group, including Emily Schinall (The NY Times), Alex Travelli (The Economist), Eoun Rocha (Reuters), and Peter Rober Hornung (ARD Germany) was to go to Pakistan from Aug 3 to 7 along side Pakistan High Commission Delhi’s Press Attache Jamil Baitu.

The fifth member — Andreas Benedikt Babst (Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Switzerland) — is already in Pakistan and would have returned with the group at the top of the trip.

The invitation for the group was a part of government efforts to market its narrative on Kashmir.

Since there have been no available flights, Pakistan requested Indian authorities to permit them to travel via the Wagah-Attari border crossing, which is otherwise closed for routine travel apart from diplomats and emergency cases due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Indian authorities declined to permit them to travel through the Wagah border citing existing restrictions.

Indian refusal prompted Pakistani leaders to boost concern about freedom of the press in India under the Modi government.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led the charge, saying the independence of media was shrinking under Modi. He tweeted: “The denial of permission by India to five international journalists to visit Pakistan, during which a visit to the Azad Kashmir Assembly was scheduled, is another damning indication of shrinking space for free of charge speech and independent journalism under a dictatorial regime.”

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