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Leading Pakistani Journalist Says He's Been Barred From Leaving Country

Pakistan journalist Cyril Almeida (file photo)

A prominent Pakistani journalist says he has been barred from leaving the country because of an article he wrote about a rift between the government and the military.

Cyril Almeida said in a tweet that he was told he is on Pakistan's exit control list and is not allowed to travel abroad.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said he could not confirm if Almeida was placed on such a list.

Almeida is a leading columnist and assistant editor at Dawn, one of Pakistan's most-respected English-language dailies.

Human rights activists urged the government immediately to lift travel and other restrictions on Almeida.

Amnesty International slammed Pakistan's "crude" imposition of a travel ban 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," said Amnesty International's director of global issues, Audrey Gaughran, in a statement.

The ban "will cause distress to all those, at home, and abroad, who believe in the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists," said the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a statement.

Almeida's October 6 story was about a high-level security meeting between military and government officials over the possible arrest of members of an anti-India militant group that became very intense.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met Army Chief of Staff Raheel Sharif to discuss the article, his office said, and concluded that there were no disputes during the talks and that the article was fabricated.

It said the story clearly violated "universally acknowledged principles of reporting on national security issues."

Pakistan ranks 147th of 179 countries on Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index.

At least 59 journalists have been killed in targeted attacks since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa
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