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Indian journalist refused entry on arrival in Lahore

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has written to Pakistani Foreign Affairs Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, voicing surprise at the action of the authorities in refusing entry to Indian journalist Harider Baweja, of the privately-owned weekly "Tehelka", on her arrival at Lahore international airport (in the eastern province of Punjab) on 22 July 2005. The journalist was denied entry despite the fact she had a valid seven-day visa. She was told she was on a blacklist.

"Such archaic practices run counter to the Pakistani government's commitment to new, peaceful relations in South Asia," RSF said. "Indian journalists must be able to visit Pakistan freely. We urge you to explain the reasons for this measure and to order the shelving of blacklists of journalists banned from entering your country."

An immigration official at Lahore airport told Baweja she was being refused entry because she was on a "visa violation" blacklist. The journalist told RSF she had no idea why her name appeared on such a list. The Immigration Department, which is under the Interior Ministry's authority, declined to give her any further explanation. Foreign Ministry officials denied that her name was on a blacklist.

Speaking to RSF from New Delhi, Baweja said she had visited Pakistan dozen of times in the past 15 years and did not understand why she was barred this time. "All countries have the right to refuse someone a visa, but Pakistan granted me one and I landed in Lahore with a valid visa," she said.

A Pakistani Information Ministry official responsible for relations with foreign journalists told RSF he knew nothing about Baweja's case.

In an earlier such incident, Sandhu Kanwar, a journalist with the daily "Hindustan Times", was denied entry in Lahore because of a visa problem in September 2004.

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