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The government on Friday removed the name of Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida from the Exit Control List (ECL), confirmed a notification issued from the Ministry of Interior.

Earlier today, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan assured the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) that Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida's name would be removed from the ECL.

The interior minister provided the assurance during a meeting with APNS and CPNE officials in Islamabad.

However, he told participants that removal of the name would in no way affect the ongoing inquiry into the the matter and the inquiry would continue till its logical conclusion.

The interior minister reiterated during the meeting that the independent media must play its role not only towards safeguarding national interests and security but also counter negative propaganda by enemies of the state.

The story, the backlash

Almeida's name was added to the Exit Control List – preventing travel abroad – on Monday after he wrote the news report "Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military". The Prime Minister's Office rejected the story thrice since it was published on October 6.

In an Editor's note, Dawn clarified its position and stated on the record that the story "was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked."

The note further stated that "Many at the helm of affairs are aware of the senior officials, and participants of the meeting who were contacted by the newspaper for collecting information. Therefore, the elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger, and scape-goating the country’s most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign."

In the wake of the travel ban on Almeida, human rights and journalists' organisations including the HRCP, PFUJ and CPNE protested and rallied in his support. Most TV news channels also ran reports and conducted programs criticising the government's decision.