Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari on Saturday condemned the incidents of “violence and threats” by protesters outside the Dawn offices in Islamabad in recent days.
In a tweet, Mazari said: “Peaceful protest is everyone’s right but giving threats to others cannot be acceptable. I disagree often with @dawn_com’s line but I strongly condemn violence and threats by protesters outside Dawn’s offices.”
“Sadly our society can’t rid itself of Zia’s legacy of intolerance and vitriol,” she added.
Peaceful protest is everyone’s right but giving threats to others cannot be acceptable. I disagree often with @dawn_com‘s line but I strongly condemn violence & threats by protesters outside Dawn’s offices. Sadly r society cant rid itself of Zia’s legacy of intolerance & vitriole
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) December 7, 2019
PML-N stalwart Khwaja Asif also voiced his support for the publication. “In this hour of trial we stand with Dawn,” he said, prior to attending a consultative session between party leaders in London.
“Dawn is a newspaper founded by Quaid-e-Azam. Over the last seven decades, they have kept the traditions of our freedom of press and the freedom of expression and [followed] the highest standards of journalism,” said Asif.
“Any attempt to curb the freedom of expression in Pakistan is one, unconstitutional, and secondly, it negates the basic fundamentals of the creation of Pakistan,” he added.
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 Dec 2, 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 behaviour 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.”