CNN team denied entry to Lal Masjid

Published July 13, 2007

ISLAMABAD, July 12: The government on Thursday stopped the reporter and the cameraman of the US-based CNN (Cable News Network) television channel from entering the Lal Masjid complex, which was opened to the media for the first time after the military operation against militants.

A government source told Dawn that CNN was denied access to the Lal Masjid for telecasting a “highly biased, inaccurate and misleading report” on Pakistan to create an impression that the country was not doing enough to curb terrorism and extremism.

The source said Nick Robertson of CNN had contacted the Pakistani authorities seeking access to North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Balochistan to do a story highlighting Pakistan’s efforts to stamp out terrorism and extremism.

He said the CNN team was given maximum access and was even provided a helicopter.

The team conducted dozens of interviews but chose to pick up five negative interviews, including that of former ISI chief Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, Barrister Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and Amir Mir. Moreover, he said the right to reply was also denied to the government when a contact was made to this respect.

“We are not a banana republic. If we can give access, we can also deny the same when necessary,” he remarked.

A CNN spokesperson, on the other hand, said: “The actions by the Pakistan government are regrettable. We remain committed to reporting from Pakistan.”

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