SAFMA protests restriction on India tour

Islamabad: A Pakistani media group Tuesday said it will oppose the government’s new rule that requires a no-objection certificate (NOC) and visa clearance for journalists and artists going to India.

The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) also threatened to boycott the coverage of the secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan scheduled in July if the government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani did not withdraw its decision to enforce the new rule.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in parliament last week that the government had decided to make it compulsory for artists, students and journalists to obtain a NOC from the government before going to India.

The decision comes into effect from March 15 but the official notification has not been issued yet.

This followed the arrest of Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in India last month.

The singer was detained in New Delhi Feb 13 after he and his troupe were caught with $124,000 in foreign currency. He was fined Rs.1.5 million.

At a press conference, SAFMA secretary-general Imtiaz Alam said: “Visa is the only permission required worldwide to travel to another country and it cannot be dovetailed with any NOC condition.

“It is particularly against the professional rights and the privileges of journalists,” Alam said.

He warned that SAFMA could boycott the coverage of the Pakistan-India foreign secretaries meeting in New Delhi if the government did not rescind its decision.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court rejected a petition, challenging the government’s decision to insist on NOC for artists and journalists seeking to travel to India.

Lawyer Noshab Khan filed the petition on the grounds that “the new condition is illegal and against the constitutional rights provided to Pakistani citizens”.

Leave a Reply