Pakistani immigration authorities at the Lahore airport denied entry to Steven Butler, the Asia program coordinator for Committee to Protect Journalists, saying his name was placed on a ‘stop list’ of the interior ministry, the press freedom watchdog said in a statement Friday.
The statement said that Butler was told by an officer at the Allama Iqbal International Airport that his visa was valid, but it was ‘voided’ because his name was on a ‘stop list’.
Butler had flown to Lahore to attend Asma Jahangir Conference. However, he was sent to Washington on a flight via Qatar.
“Pakistani authorities’ move to block Steven Butler from entering the country is baffling and is a slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom in the country,” said Joel Simon, the CPJ’s executive director.
“Pakistani authorities should give a full explanation of their decision to bar Butler from entering and correct this error. If the government is interested in demonstrating its commitment to a free press, it should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this case.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a tweet that it was “disappointed” by the government’s decision to return Butler.
“On one hand, the government claims to be building a softer image of Pakistan. On the other, it refuses entry to a reputed international journalist with a valid visa,” the HRCP lamented.