PANAJI: Days after being blacklisted on the Exit Control List (ECL) by the Pakistan government, Dawn’s assistant editor, Cyril Almeida, has been his witty self, humouring his followers on Twitter with jokes and satire. But, beyond all the jocularity and courage, he has also shown signs of anxiety. On Wednesday, he tweeted, “Am concerned, possibly convinced, more than 24 hours after the travel ban was imposed that govt is planning to take further, uglier actions.”
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A citizen of Pakistan, Almeida has always been vocal about his love and patriotism for his country in his role as a journalist at the English daily. “He wanted more people-to-people engagement between India and Pakistan. I guess these kind of minds will always be considered anti-national on either side of the border. He has texted me in times when he has had bad days at work or has come back from reporting about a terror attack and said those are days he wished he was doing some other work, but quickly added that it had to be done. He would never give up on Pakistan; for him, Pakistan is home,” said Panaji-based photographer, Edson Beny Dias, who showed Almeida around the state capital during his second visit here in 2014.
There has been incessant support and concern pouring in for Almeida from the journalist fraternity globally, but they are also very proud about the fact that he brought the thrill and integrity back to the profession. “He is technically, considering his family’s ancestral history in Goa, the second Goan journalist to make it to the news in a big way. The first to my knowledge was Anthony Mascarenhas, who covered the genocide in Bangladesh in the 1970s. A lot of journalists will look up to Almeida now. The Dawn’s position in all this is also commendable and shows that freedom of press does exist in Pakistan. People are standing up for honest reporting,” said publisher Frederick Noronha, who met with Almeida at the Goa Arts and Literature Festival 2015.
When someone tagged Almeida as the ‘next poster boy of Pakistan’ in relation to all media attention he was receiving of late, he replied, “Please, no! I don’t want Miandad attacking me,” referring to Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad’s famous antic of waving his bat at an Indian cricketer. Almeida’s calm composure in the eye of the storm probably stems from his ancestral roots in the coastal state of Goa.
“While in Goa, he was hoping to find his roots. We spoke about politics, the idea of freedom and the quality of life in India and Pakistan. He spoke about the fear of being continuously watched by the government. He didn’t speak much, even on his holiday he was always thinking like a journalist,” says the owner of the guest house in Fontainhas, Panaji, where Almeida stayed with his mother and brother last December.
The journalist was equally enamoured by Goa’s architecture. “Almeida was interested in writing a book about his family roots. He was intrigued by the houses in Goa, especially as we walked the streets of Fontainhas. He wanted some particular Goan sweets for his mother and aunt back in Pakistan. I am not too sure, but I guess it was pinagre. He loved the crab xec-xec at Venite’s and enjoyed a chilled glass of beer,” Dias reminisces.
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