Journalists for liberal visa regime
LAHORE: Leading media people of Pakistan and India in a joint statement on Monday called upon Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Indian counterpart, SM Krishna, to extend the same visa to journalists as being granted to businessmen to facilitate two-way information flow.
South Asian Free Media Association (Safma) Secretary-General Imtiaz Alam expressed his serious apprehensions about the protocol or MoU on the new visa regime being signed in Islamabad. He demanded that foreign ministers of either side implement the promises successive governments of the two countries had been making to allow free movement of journalists.
Addressing successive Saarc Journalists Summits, organised by Safma, successive foreign ministers of Pakistan and India and from other countries had assured Safma delegates from all countries of liberalising visa regime, including granting of a Saarc (visa) sticker for travel across the region.
The Council of Ministers of Saarc had twice decided to issue a Saarc Sticker to journalists from member countries. But its decision has not been implemented by the governments of India and Pakistan. “To our sheer disappointment nothing has moved and the proposed visa regime is frustrating,” Mr Alam said.
Through the statement, media leaders urged the governments of Pakistan and India to grant multiple-entry one-year whole-country visa exempted from police reporting, and without the restrictions on entry and exit points.
They appealed to the foreign ministers of the two countries not to disappoint the media community in the sub-continent.
In a statement signed by Imtiaz Alam, M Ziauddin, Arif Nizami, Nusrat Javeed, Aamer Mahmood, Kumar Ketkar, KK Katyal, Vinod Kumar Sharma and several others said the free flow of information and free movement of journalists was a pre-requisite for any kind of confidence building, conflict resolution and meaningful regional cooperation. It is essential to overcome information and trust deficits between India and Pakistan and for improved regional cooperation to the benefit of all countries, they said.