New York, December 3, 2019 — Pakistan authorities must prevent demonstrations against the Dawn newspaper from turning violent, and should investigate death threats made against its staffers, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Dozens of protesters besieged the newspaper’s Islamabad office yesterday evening, blocking staff from entering or exiting the building, after the paper published a headline accurately describing the perpetrator of a terrorist attack in London on November 29 as “of Pakistani origin,” according to news reports. Demonstrators also gathered at the Karachi Press Club holding signs calling for Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas and publisher Hameed Haroon to be hanged, according to videos shot at the scene and sent to CPJ.
“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. “We call on Pakistani authorities to take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Dawn’s staff.”
Several federal cabinet ministers denounced Dawn’s reporting on Twitter, including Science and Technology Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists issued a statement, which CPJ reviewed, condemning the demonstrators for blocking the entrances to Dawn’s office.
Last month, the CPJ board presented Abbas with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award for “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.”