NDMA abandons two journalists at Nepal airport
ISLAMABAD: Two journalists of Jang Group, who were taken by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) along to Nepal for coverage of Pakistani relief activities in the quake-hit areas, were abandoned on the airport on their way back when the NDMA’s chartered plane refused to board any civilian.
Obaid Abrar Khan of The News and Atif Shirazi of Daily Jang were denied a seat in the C-130 of NDMA while returning to Pakistan while they were taken to Nepal by the authority in the same plane and on the condition that they will be brought back in the same plane while the journalists would have to bear all other expenses.
On June 8, when the two journalists had got stamped their passports for departure, both were told that no civilians will board the plane; however, a lady who happened to be the wife of a Saarc director managed to board the NDMA plane after dialling a few numbers from her cell, but the only two who were left alone on the airport were reporters of Jang Group.
Although the journalists’ passports were stamped for departure, but the Nepali visa officer prolonged their stay upon request. By then, the two reporters had run out of cash.Then a Nepali journalist, Santoshi Adikari, came for the help of these reporters who paid their hotel bill. “We borrowed money from our (Pakistan) embassy for the return ticket,” Atif Shirazi told this correspondent.
Meanwhile, Press Council of Pakistan Chairman Dr Rana Shamim wrote a letter to NDMA Major General Asghar Nawaz to help the abandoned reporters.
Following is the text of the letter:
“Mr Obaid Abrar Khan. Correspondent of The News and Mr Atif Sherazi Correspondent of The Daily Jang, who had gone to Nepal with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) team for reporting on Pakistani relief operations for the earth quake victims, have reportedly been stuck up in Nepal. They have sent SOS message to the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) for assistance in their safe return. Our office has contacted Media Cell in NDMA, and Ms Reema Zubairi of the Media Cell informed that they are trying to help them.
The stuck up journalists are repeatedly calling the PCP for their rescue. In view of the above, I seek your personal indulgence for rescue of the stuck up journalists on top priority basis.”
The letter from Rana Shamim did the trick as Pakistan Embassy in Khatmandu acted swiftly to help the stranded journalists. While talking to The News, chairman of the Press Council of Pakistan said that PCP can initiate inquiry into the issue if a formal complaint is lodged with it. He maintained that the two young journalists have safely reached home, and he has held a meeting with both of them.
He said if the inquiry against any department hurdling the journalists duties is proved, that department will be fined and the recovered money is distributed among the aggrieved party.
Ahmad Kamal, the spokesman of NDMA when contacted said that neither any organisation nor any person intentionally mismanaged the schedule of media team as journalists of other television channels were taken and brought back as per schedule.
He maintained that the said two journalists were from the print media, therefore, they decided to stay in Nepal instead of coming back in the next flight and then a few flights were delayed for one reason or another.
“Some families were scheduled to come back in the C-130 on June 8 that is why this all happened but even then the NDMA is ready to compensate the journalists,” said the spokesman. He mentioned that it was NDMA who coordinated with the Pakistan Embassy in Nepal so that the journalists may return safely. He said that NDMA wants cordial relationship with the media and nothing was done intentionally as there were huge relief activities being undertaken by various organisations of the world, and no one ignored any journalist wilfully.
Moreover, other NDMA officials also disclosed that many letters were written to the organisation operating the flights to manage safe return of the stranded journalists. The officials maintained that one Col Abbas of the NDMA was helping the journalists in Nepal after the said episode.