Scribes' body want multiple-entry visa for Indo-Pak journos
Islamabad: Reporters from India and Pakistan should be granted multiple-entry, whole-country visas similar to the ones being given to businessmen, journalists' bodies demanded on Thursday ahead of talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries.
The organisations, including the South Asian Free Media Association and Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors, demanded that the foreign ministers should implement promises made by successive government of India and Pakistan to allow the free movement of reporters.
Addressing a news conference here, SAFMA secretary general Imtiaz Alam expressed serious apprehensions about an agreement for a liberalised visa regime that is expected to be signed during External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's visit to Islamabad, saying it may not have any concessions for journalists.
Alam said successive foreign ministers of both countries had made assurances while addressing meetings organised by SAFMA that the visa regime would be liberalised for reporters, including the grant of SAARC visas for travel across South Asia.
The Council of Ministers of SAARC twice decided to issue SAARC visas to journalists of the region but the decision was not implemented by the Indian and Pakistani governments, he said.
"To our sheer disappointment, nothing has moved and the proposed visa regime is frustrating," he said.
The journalists' organisations of both countries issued a joint statement calling on the governments of India and Pakistan to grant multiple-entry, whole-country visas valid for a year for reporters, who should be exempted from reporting to police.
There should not be any restrictions on the entry and exit points for journalists, the joint statement said.
"Free flow of information and free movement of journalists is a prerequisite 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 for improved regional cooperation to the benefit of all countries," the statement said.
Initially, the two countries could issue visas under a relaxed regime to 100 reporters each of India and Pakistan, Alam said.
Journalists can be certified by recognised bodies like SAFMA and press clubs to apply for such visas, he said.