Reporters Without Borders wrote to Pakistani foreign affairs minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar today voicing astonishment at the action of the authorities in refusing entry to Indian journalist Harider Baweja of the independent weekly Tehelka on her arrival at Lahore international airport (in the eastern province of Punjab) on 22 July although she had a valid seven-day visa. She was told she was on a blacklist.
"Such archaic practices run counter to the Pakistani government’s commitment to new, peaceful relations in south Asia," the press freedom organisation said. "Indian journalists must be able to visit Pakistan freely. We urge you to explain the reasons for this measure and to order the destruction of blacklists of journalists banned from entering your country."
An immigration official at Lahore airport told Baweja she was being refused entry because she was on a "visa violation" blacklist. She told Reporters Without Borders she had no idea why her name appeared on such a list. The immigration department, which comes under the interior ministry, declined to give her any further explanation. Foreign ministry officials denied that her name was on any list.
Speaking to Reporters Without Borders from New Delhi, Baweja said she had visited Pakistan dozen of times in the past 15 years and did not understand why she was barred this time. "All countries have the right to refuse someone a visa, but Pakistan granted me one and I landed in Lahore with a valid visa," she said.
A Pakistani information ministry official responsible for relations with foreign journalists told Reporters Without Borders he knew nothing about Baweja’s case.
In an earlier case, Sandhu Kanwar, an editor with the Hindustan Times daily newspaper, was denied entry in Lahore because of a visa problem, in September 2004.