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Pakistan expels N.Y. Times reporter on eve of historic elections

May 11, 2013|By Alex Rodriguez
  • Pakistani election officials count ballot papers.
Pakistani election officials count ballot papers. (Banaras Khan / AFP/Getty…)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani government ordered the Islamabad bureau chief for the New York Times to leave the country on the eve of landmark parliamentary elections, according to the newspaper’s website.

Declan Walsh, 39, was told early Thursday morning that his visa was being canceled and that he had to leave the country within 72 hours, the paper’s website reported. A group of police delivered Walsh a letter from the Interior Ministry telling him that his visa was being revoked “in view of your undesirable activities.”

Pakistan’s parliamentary and provincial assembly elections on Saturday mark the first democratic transition of one civilian government to another in a country with a long history of military coups and political ousters.

Walsh has lived and worked in Pakistan for the last nine years. He worked for Britain’s Guardian newspaper as its Islamabad bureau chief before joining the New York Times in January 2012. The New York Times’ website said Executive Editor Jill Abramson submitted a letter of protest to Pakistan’s interior minister, Malik Muhammad Habib Khan, asking for the reinstatement of Walsh’s visa and calling him “a reporter of integrity who has at all times offered balanced, nuanced and factual reporting on Pakistan.” She called the rationale for ministry’s order “vague and unsupported.”

Pakistan remains one of the most difficult places for journalists to work. Over the last decade, Pakistani authorities have failed to prosecute a single suspect in the murder cases of 23 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The committee’s Asia program director, Bob Dietz, urged Pakistani authorities to reverse their decision to expel Walsh from the country. “The expulsion of Declan Walsh shows just how much the authorities fear independent media coverage,” Dietz said in a statement published on the committee’s website. “The vagueness and the late night delivery of the expulsion order smack of a need to intimidate foreign and local journalists on the eve of historic elections that could herald the growth of democracy in Pakistan.”

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