ISLAMABAD: Global media watchdogs — Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) — on Wednesday called on Pakistani authorities to condemn the besieging of Dawn offices in Islamabad and to prevent demonstrations against the newspaper from turning violent.
Earlier on Monday, a few dozen unidentified people staged a protest outside Dawn offices in the capital over the publication of a news report regarding the Pakistan-origin of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.
The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage. Security guards at the media house had to lock the gates to prevent the protesters from entering the premises before police and officers of the capital administration arrived.
A day later, dozens of people staged a protest outside Karachi Press Club against the newspaper and made threats against its staffers. They also threatened to besiege the offices of the media group if “prompt action was not taken against the management and outlets of the organisation for publishing false news.”
“Pakistanis have every right to object to and demonstrate against the Dawn newspaper over its coverage, but threatening violence steps way over the line,” said Kathleen Carroll, CPJ’s board chair, in a statement issued on Tuesday. “We call on Pakistani authorities to take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Dawn’s staff.”
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, also condemned the incident, saying: “This show of force constitutes yet another absolutely unacceptable act of intimidation towards Pakistan’s leading daily.”
“The information we have obtained indicates that the federal government was, at the very least, a passive accomplice if not the actual instigator of behavior that is unacceptable in a democracy,” said the RSF statement. “We call on Prime Minister Imran Khan to publicly condemn these excesses, failing which he will be held personally responsible for this alarming press freedom violation.”
A day earlier, the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) President Arif Nizami had also expressed concern over the protests demanded the government put an end to attacks on the media.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Pakistan Today’s chief editor had said that under the incumbent regime, the attacks on journalism have increased manifold which points towards its hostility towards the so-called fourth pillar of the state.
He had also questioned the silence of the government officials on the incidents, saying the policies employed by the government against media are hurting journalists.