DHAKA, March 20, 2016 (BSS) - Pakistani occupation forces threatened to shoot around three dozens of foreign journalists for their attempt to cover the War of Liberation in 1971 after coming out of the confinement.
"Soldiers of the Pakistani Army threatened to shoot the newsmen if they left the Intercontinental Hotel in North Dacca, from which they could see troops firing on unarmed civilians, who supported the East Pakistani rebels (freedom fighters)," according to a report titled "Army Expels 35 Foreign Newsmen From Pakistan."
The report of Grace Licrtenstein was published in The New York Times on March 28, 1971.
"Before they (foreign journalists) were put on a plane to Karachi, the newsmen, including The New York Times correspondent Sydney H. Schanberg, were searched and their notes, films and files were confiscated," the report said.
While in Dacca, the newsmen were prevented from filing any dispatches or contacting diplomatic missions. Correspondents for the Associated Press and Reuters apparently were not at the hotel when the other newsmen were rounded up. Offices of the two news services in New York said that they had not heard from their men in Dacca, it also said.
Following the reports published in different international media against the Pakistani atrocities, then Pakistani government expelled 35 foreign newsmen from The New York Times, The Washington Star, Newsweek, The Baltimore Sun and other media in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Japan and the Soviet Union on March 27, 1971.
Schanberg (Pulitzer Prize winner) reported that when the lieutenant colonel in charge of the area around the hotel was asked why the foreign press had to leave, he replied: "We don't have to explain. This is our country."
Then as he turned away, smiling contemptuously, he added: "We want you to leave because it would be too dangerous for you. It will be too bloody."
A.M. Rosenthal, managing editor of The Times, protested the treatment of Schanberg and the others in a telegram to the Pakistani Government.
The telegram said: "Stunned by unwarranted and unprecedented expulsion of the New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg and more than 30 other foreign correspondents from Dacca. Contrary to all principles of international press freedom, Schanberg and others were confined to Intercontinental Hotel in Dacca under threat that they would be shot if they left the building in performance of their journalistic duties.
They were subsequently expelled from the country after confiscation of their papers and films.
Can only believe that this must have been error on part of military authorities. Trust that your government will rectify this situation immediately."
The plane carrying the expelled newsmen from Dacca stopped to refuel at Colombo, Ceylon, where the correspondents for The Times, The Washington Star, Newsweek and The Baltimore Sun were able to telephone a pooled dispatch.
With the expulsion of the foreign press, the main source of news on East Pakistan was the Press Trust of India, a group of Indian news agencies. Pakistan, protesting what it charged was India's "interference" in her international affairs, asserted the Indian news reports were exaggerated and "designed to malign Pakistan."