49 foreign journalists issued visas for Feb 8 elections coverage so far: Solangi

 Caretaker Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting and Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Solangi on Tuesday said that certain elements were spreading rumours claiming no foreign journalists and observers were coming to Pakistan for coverage of upcoming general elections which was contrary to facts.

He was addressing a press conference flanked by Secretary Information and Broadcasting Shahera Shahid, Executive Director General External Publicity Wing Ambreen Jan, Director General Radio Pakistan Saeed Sheikh and Principal Information Officer Dr Tariq Mehmood.

He said that several foreign media representatives were already in Pakistan who would cover the elections in Pakistan.

Many foreign journalists have applied for visas to cover the election, Murtaza Solangi said adding that 49 visas have been issued to observers and foreign journalists so far whereas 32 visa applications were under process.

He said 24 visa applications for coverage of elections were under process at the Pakistan High Commission New Delhi.

A total of 174 applications have been received from various media organizations, the minister added.
He said that in the non-journalist category, 25 applications were in process from the UK alone, eight applications from Russian Federation whereas 13 applications from Japan were under process.

He said that five members of Parliament from Canada had applied for observer visas whereas as many applications had come from the Commonwealth which were under process.

Accreditation cards have been given to many journalists from within Pakistan, Murtaza Solangi said adding so far 6,065 journalists have been given accreditation cards in Pakistan which included 1200 from Lahore, 1470 from Karachi, 1050 from Peshawar, 600 from Quetta, 355 from Hyderabad, 250 from Faisalabad and 290 from Multan.

He said that international journalists and observers were being issued accreditation cards for coverage of elections in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Besides these three cities, he said if a foreign journalist wanted to go to any other city, his application would be examined on a case-to-case basis.

The minister said that even though the last date for visa applications January 20 had already passed, the relevant institutions of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Ministry of Information were still processing these applications on a case-to-case basis.

EDG EP Wing Ambreen Jan said visa applications for election coverage were received from 14 countries. She said 174 foreign media journalists already in Pakistan had applied for accreditation cards.

She said 81 foreign journalists applied for visas, out of which 49 foreign journalists have been issued visas so far while the rest of the applications were under process.

She said that a code of conduct for media and election observers has been issued by the ECP which will be shared by them. She said that the number of applications for election observers was 55.
To a question she said the Press Information Department will set up a media cell for election coverage to provide facilities to foreign journalists and a 24-hour cell will be operational in the EP Wing to provide facilities to foreign journalists.
Replying to a question, Murtaza Solangi said that it was the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens and it would take necessary measures to provide security to foreign journalists and observers.

By Mian Saeed Ahmed Khan