ISLAMABAD - Barring columnist Cyril Almeida from travelling abroad for his recent story on civil-military divide over terrorism issue has jolted social media and the ongoing discussion over the authenticity of content diverted to the oppression of freedom of speech.

Social media reaction to Almeida's story was intense but when he mentioned he is barred from traveling abroad, the web, especially Twitter, turned into a battleground.

"Ur very famous in the airport. Ur name plastered at each immigration officer's desk. A big A4 sheet with just your name,” Almeida posted on Tuesday.

A wide array of journalists and intellectuals were quick to unite in expressing unity with the fellow journalist, rising above their editorial policies or individual ideologies.

Abbas Nasir wrote: "Had @cyalm shredded the Constitution; acquired properties abroad via offshore companies, dodgy wealth he'd be free to travel abroad".

Amir Zia said that rather than putting Almeida on the ECL, Nawaz Sharif should have probed who had "planted" the one-sided story on behalf of the PML-N.

“One can raise Qs on Dawn story but putting @cyalm name on ECL is wrong. After Dawn had published rebuttal, there was no need for all this,” said Ansar Abbasi in his tweet.

Shahzeb Khanzada, the talk show host, asked: “banned outfits can roam around freely, do rallies but a journalist has been put on ECL for a story.”

There were many trends on twitter but #StandWithCyril was among the popular ones.

Arshad Sharif declared placing Almeida’s name in exit control list a threat to journalist community.

"Collateral damage of civil-military cat & mouse game & blame game" he further wrote.

Hamid Mir strongly condemned putting the name of Cyril Almeida on ECL. “There is no treason case against him. We know who was facing treason trial,” he said.

Beena Sarwar raised a question that who benefits from the scapegoating of Cyril Almeida.

Not only journalists but politicians also showed solidarity with the columnist.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted: “Government use of ECL as a political tool is anti-democratic.” He said the same tool was used to target PPP, opposition politicians from Punjab and sitting Sindh MPAs.

"Latest target is @cyalm. Desperate govt must stop using undemocratic measures to hide its incompetence" Bilawal wrote.



NNI adds: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has urged the authorities concerned to immediately withdraw all curbs on journalist Cyril Almeida’s travelling abroad and deal with any grievance against him in accordance with the law, due process and universally acknowledged freedom of opinion and expression.

In a statement issued yesterday, the commission said: “Barring Cyril Almeida from travelling abroad and the apparent pressure on his employers, the highly respected Dawn newspaper, will cause distress to all those, at home and abroad, who believe in the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists. This is not the time to turn the international journalist community against Pakistan.”

“It seems that the authorities are overreacting to a story by Cyril, which touches on journalists’ responsibilities in times of trial. The HRCP believes that civil-military relations are not a subject beyond the concerns of working journalists or the people at large.”

“The arbitrary placing of names on the Exit Control List (ECL) has been in debate for long and under the revised thinking on the matter it has been decided that any person whose freedom of movement is to be curtailed must be heard before his name is added to that.”

“We realise that Pakistan is passing through difficult times, but we are convinced, more than ever, that wisdom lies in respect of freedom of expression rather than suppressing it, because neither national unity can be achieved nor can any issues of governance be resolved by finding scapegoats among journalists,” the statement added.

“The HRCP calls upon the authorities to immediately remove Cyril’s name from the ECL and refrain from harassing him and intimidating his employers. We also stress that whatever matters are of concern to the establishment must be dealt with in accordance with the law, freedom of expression and other rights of citizens, particularly with regard to the due legal process,” it concluded.