Pakistan’s dusky Dawn newspaper’s most-read writer Cyril Almeida has been named 71st World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 100 countries, after one member of the IPI succeeding in comprehending one of the columns of Mr Almeida.
Though claim to fame to this embattled journalist is his ability to once sneak into a high-level civil-military officials meeting being held in the Black Hole where he live-tweeted and later on wrote a story. The landmark story was accepted by all those present in the meeting and those who never attended it. The story, which is now called Dusky Leaks, boomed the newspaper industry as Dawn’s circulation went up manifold, especially in posh areas of civilized and uncivilized people. Also, the newspaper’s revenues multiplied, which benefited the publisher, directly, and employees, indirectly.
The IPI’s press freedom award honours journalists “who have made significant contributions to the promotion of press freedom, particularly in the face of great personal risk”.
“Yes, I sneaked into the meeting, saw everything happen with my open and naked eyes,” Mr Almeida told a group of non-selected journalists.
“I remember that the meeting was served with qeemay wale naan, pakoras, samosas, tea, biscuits and cupcakes.”
Civilians would go for naan while the others were for pakoras.
“They talked at length about state, real estate, and state- and non-state-actor coverage.”
Taking cue from actors, Nawaz Sharif, who was being called prime minister in the meeting, suggested giving awards to young actors like Mehwish Hayyat, instead of non-state actors, to which disagreement ensued.
“Shahbaz Shahrif responded that whenever he picks an actor, a villain in plainclothes comes and chucks away his choice. To which, another participant said that they never did so. At this point, Nawaz Sharif intervened, and said the country had lots of both state and non-state actors, and we should not eye on others’ actors.”
Coming back to Mr Almeida’s contribution to the press, the IPI said Mr Almeida has been recognised by |all” for his “critical” and “tenacious coverage” of civil-military friendship in Pakistan.
“He invented ‘boys’ for the aged commanders, ‘people’ for angels, and demigods for the powerless. His short, crispy and scathing sentences make rounds in literate and illiterate circles of Pakistan, because of their several meanings. Some circles say they never comprehended his articles. Even though such circles are in a majority, the country’s powerful elite rejects their stance.”
In 2016, Mr Almeida was placed on the Exit Control List on his request, because he wanted to suppress his thought of flying abroad instead of serving his own people. He is also facing a case for his crucial interview with the former prime minister at the Multan airport.