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ISLAMABAD: Amnesty International condemned Pakistan government Tuesday after it imposed a travel ban on a leading journalist who sparked an uproar by reporting that civilian officials had clashed with the military over its covert support for militants.

Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor at Dawn, the country´s oldest and most prestigious English daily, announced early Tuesday he had been placed on the “Exit Control List”.

His report published Thursday prompted threats on social media and was denied three times by the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in language branded by Amnesty as “chilling” and a “crude intimidation tactic designed to silence journalists”.

“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 the group´s director of global issues Audrey Gaughran, calling on Sharif to “remember his promise” to improve conditions for journalists.

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

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.

Meanwhile, the Karachi Press Club demanded the government to withdraw its decision.

In a statement issued here on Tuesday, KPC President Fazil Jamili and Secretary AH Khanzada termed the government an ‘action in haste’ taken without even holding an inquiry into the matter.

“The Ministry of Interior did not even followed the required legal course in this matter in putting someone name on the ECL, without a court order. In this case the story under question is of serious nature and the DAWN as well as the reporter concerned ‘stand by’ the news,” the statement said.

“If the government wants to take legal course against DAWN or the said correspondent, it has every legal right to do so, but, before any judicial order any such move would mean putting undue pressure on the newspaper and harassment of the journalist. Without any case or proper inquiry, putting the name of a journalist on ECL, would be considered as an attempt to suppress the media.

“There is no doubt that in the last few years there have been decline in the standard of journalism and reporting particularly in the electronic media because of rising corporate culture. What we need is strong editorial oversight, editorial board and proper training”

The Karachi Press Club urged the government to constitute Media Complaints Commission as per directives of the Supreme Court in Hamid Mir’s case and in the light of the draft sent the PFUJ in 2008.

“We also appeal to all the journalist bodies, senior editors and journalists unions to join hands to protect freedom of the press and work for responsible journalism,” said the statement.