New Delhi on Wednesday termed Pakistan giving marching orders to two Indian journalists stationed in that country a ‘retrograde’ step. The Pakistani decision also left Indian officials surprised as the move comes days ahead of a new government taking office in India.
Pakistan decided against renewing the visa of journalists Snehesh Alex Philip of the Press Trust of India and Meena Menon of The Hindu and asked them to leave the country in a week’s time.
No reason was cited in the letters to the journalists late on Tuesday informing them that their visas wouldn’t be renewed. Both journalists were in Pakistan for less than a year.
“It is regrettable and unfortunate that the two Indian correspondents in Pakistan have been asked to leave prematurely and suddenly only a few months after their arrival there”, external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
Going further, the spokesperson said not allowing “independent journalists to function is a retrograde step” as “free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognised as an important confidence building measure”.
The spokesperson also said the ministry is surprised at the “numerous allegations against India in the ongoing controversy in Pakistan on media freedom and the different views of Pakistan institutions thereto.”
The neighbours have an understanding that two journalists will be stationed in each other’s country.
For sometime, there have been no Pakistani journalists in India. Though it is not clear whether Pakistan was reciprocating in sending the Indian journalists back, the timing of the decision came as a surprise.