Pakistan: After eight hours of interrogation at the Lahore airport, Steven Butler, a foreign journalist and member of a prominent media watchdog, was finally allowed to enter Pakistan on Thursday.
Pakistan’s decision to stop Steven Butler from entering the country to deliver a speech at a human rights conference is condemned by the media and humanitarian organizations, including IFEX members.
The head of the Asia programme for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was denied entry into Pakistan and deported in what looks to be the most recent step in a campaign against dissent and media freedom.
Steven Butler was told by a border security officer at Pakistan’s international airport in Lahore early on Friday that although his journalist visa was still valid, he could not enter the country because his name was “on a stop list” of the Interior Ministry.
Butler was questioned by immigration authorities for about eight hours before being given permission to enter by the Interior Ministry.
According to the details, the Interior Ministry had been notified by FIA authorities since Buttler was on the stop list following his arrival.
Butler’s passport was taken by airport officials in Lahore, forcing him to board a plane for Doha, Qatar. Butler, who communicated with CPJ while on the flight, said that he was in “a kind of restricted custody” and that the flight crew had his passport and boarding card. When he landed in Doha, authorities put him on a flight to Washington, D.C.
The decision by Pakistani authorities to stop Steven Butler from entering the country is baffling and a slap in the face to people who are worried about journalistic freedom there, according to Joel Simon, executive director of CPJ. “Pakistani officials should fully explain their choice to deny Butler entry and fix this mistake. The government should launch a prompt and open investigation into this matter if it wants to show that it supports journalistic freedom.
In order to take part in the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan, Butler was visiting the country.