Pakistan expels 3 British reporters

Islamabad, Nov 11 (DPA) The Pakistan government ordered expulsion of three reporters of Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper in response to an opinion piece in which President Pervez Musharraf is referred to by what Pakistani officials called “foul and abusive language.”

The editorial piece, which was published Friday without a byline and titled “Bankrupt Relationship,” also described Musharraf’s rule as a “combination of incompetence and brutality.”

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“This was very, very unfair,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said.

“You can’t go to a country and call the head of state names like that,” he said, adding that while he had read the editorial he could not confirm the expulsions reportedly ordered by the Information Ministry.

No senior ministry officials could be contacted to confirm the expulsion – effective within 72 hours – but a member of the paper’s staff said the reporters had been told to leave.

This was the first direct measure taken against staff of foreign media in the country since the imposition last Saturday of emergency rule by Musharraf, an army general who seized power in a 1999 coup.

But foreign broadcasters, including the BBC and CNN, were affected by a blanket blackout of transmissions by news channels on the country’s cable networks.

Steps are reportedly also underway to amend the media laws to prohibit disrespectful references to the president or armed forces.

Under the proposals, violations would incur penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment.