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Pakistan Defies Domestic and International Calls for Revoking Travel Ban on Journalist Cyril Almeida

Cyril Almeida, the journalist in question, was informed on Monday that his name had been included in the so-called Exit Control List (ECL)

Cyril Almeida, journalist for Pakistan's DAWN newspaper. VOA

Pakistan appears to be defying domestic and international calls for immediate removal of a controversial travel ban on one of its leading journalists, insisting the move is meant to bring “an early closure” to the inquiry into his “concocted” story on a secret national security meeting.

Cyril Almeida, the journalist in question, was informed on Monday that his name had been included in the so-called Exit Control List (ECL). The move bars the journalist from leaving the country, forcing him to abandon a family holiday trip to Dubai.

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The punitive measure stemmed from a front-page article his employer, the English-language DAWN newspaper, published on October 6, in which he gave details of an unusually heated exchange between civilian and military leaders during the secret high-level meeting over how to tackle militant groups allegedly operating out of Pakistan.

“Placement of the name of the journalist, Cyril Almeida, on ECL is only meant to bring the inquiry on the inaccurate, concocted and misleading contents of the press report written by him to an early closure,” a senior interior ministry official told VOA Wednesday.

Government defends move

He insisted there is no “check nor restraint” on Almeida’s movements inside Pakistan, though the ECL is primarily meant for barring individuals on the list from undertaking foreign travels.

“Am concerned, possible convinced, more than 24 hours after the travel ban was imposed that government is planning to take further, uglier actions,” Almeida said in a latest message posted on his official Twitter account late on Tuesday.

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The controversial article cited anonymous sources describing the face-off, in which the civilian leadership warned that the country faced international isolation unless the military cracks down on anti-India and anti-Afghanistan Islamist groups using Pakistani soil.

FILE - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. VOA
FILE – Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. VOA

Top government officials and the chief of the military spy agency attended the secret meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The government, however, has since repeatedly called the story “fabricated” and “irresponsible journalism.” On Monday, Sharif said “those responsible should be identified for stern action.”

Local and international media watchdogs, as well as human rights groups, are outraged at the ban on the prominent journalist, who is highly respected for his columns and stories.

DAWN defends report

In a scathing editorial Wednesday, DAWN maintained the accuracy of its reporting.

“As gatekeeper of information that was “verified, cross-checked and fact-checked,” the editor of this paper bears sole responsibility for the story in question. The government should at once remove Mr. Almeida’s name from the ECL and salvage some of its dignity,” it said.

Another leading English-language newspaper, The Nation, has also written a highly critical editorial in defence of Almeida.

“Since the government would counsel us, the press, on how to do our job, we would like to offer some advice for them, on how to better do theirs. Leave journalists alone. Worry a great deal about Pakistan’s image abroad – some of our actions and inactions as a country are indefensible – everyone knows it, no matter how much we may pretend otherwise,” it said.

US, rights groups voice concern

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters the U.S. is aware of the reported restrictions on Almeida. “We’re concerned about any efforts to limit press freedom or the ability of journalists to conduct their very, very important work.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has also demanded the restrictions on Almeida be swiftly lifted.

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“Pakistan can be a dangerous place for journalists, but the nation has a proud tradition of a fiercely independent press,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler.

”Unhappiness with a press report should never be used as an excuse to restrict the freedom of a journalist,” added Butler.

Amnesty international criticized the “chilling” language used by Prime Minister Sharif’s office and joined the calls for immediate removal of travel restrictions on Almeida.

“It is one thing for the authorities to dispute and contradict a media report. But it is quite another to threaten a journalist under the guise of national security,” the group said. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)