KARACHI: Journalists staged rallies in different parts of the country on Wednesday on the call of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) to mark the World Press Freedom Day and to show solidarity with Dawn.
The show of solidarity comes amid reports that the government has recommended disciplinary action against the paper and its editor and reporter over the publication of a report on civil-military divide in October 2016.
In Karachi, members of the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) took out a rally from the press club to the Dawn office. Addressing a news conference at the press club before the rally, KUJ president Hasan Mansoor said it was not the first time a newspaper was facing threat from elements wanting to control content that got published.
PFUJ secretary general Ayub Jan Sarhandi said, “It is not about only one newspaper and editor. How we handle this particular case will determine how other similar cases are dealt with.”
Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists back newspaper
Soon, journalists started walking to the Dawn office raising slogans against arm-twisting tactics used by the government and the state.
After they reached the newspaper’s office, the KUJ and PFUJ leaders gave speeches about the ongoing crisis, pledging their unconditional support to Dawn.
Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas said: “Governments have used such pressure tactics in the past as well to deter journalists and news organisations from objectively reporting on issues. This is not going to be the last time this happens. We rely on the support of media bodies to continue our efforts and to report the way we always do.”
From the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, a large number of journalists gathered outside the Dawn building in the federal capital to show solidarity with the newspaper.
PFUJ president Afzal Butt said: “We sniffed a conspiracy regarding the Dawn report controversy since the first day because the commission, constituted to investigate the report, had not a single journalist member.
“The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) should have the courage to say that the case has been already settled by the Press Council of Pakistan, which has not found any irregularity in the report, as there were four members of the APNS in the council,” he said.
Mr Butt said journalists had launched movements against the atrocities of military dictators in the past and they were ready to start a new movement if any step was taken against Dawn.
Senior journalist Nasir Zaidi, who had suffered torture during the Zia era, said that unfortunately the government was weak and unable to take a stand.
Senior journalist Hamid Mir said working journalists were ready to resist any step taken to curb the voice of the media.
Anchorperson Matiullah Jan said democratic institutions would also suffer if the voice of the media was gagged.
The Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) expressed solidarity with Dawn by holding demonstrations in Lahore and other major cities of the province.
Speakers at the Lahore demonstration said journalists would not let the government or any institution make Dawn the scapegoat.
In Peshawar, members of the PFUJ and representatives of the Khyber Union of Journalists and the Peshawar Press Club visited the Dawn bureau office to express solidarity with the newspaper.
“We will not hesitate to render any sacrifice for freedom of press,” they vowed.
In Quetta, journalists staged a rally which marched on different roads of the city before culminating in a gathering at the press club.
Meanwhile, international media advocacy groups have expressed “unconditional and absolute support” to Dawn and urged the government to refrain from any reprisals against the newspaper and its journalists.
The Reporters Without Borders said, “Taking retaliatory measures against Dawn would only confirm the already legitimate concern that the civil government is manipulated by the military institutions and intelligence services.”
In a World Press Freedom Day message, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that it “strongly condemns any move by the government to punish Zaffar Abbas, Cyril Almeida, or Dawn newspaper over its role in reporting on national security” or any other issues.
Ikram Junaidi from Islamabad, Intikhab Hanif from Lahore, Roshad from Peshawar, Saleem Shahid from Quetta and Anwar Iqbal from Washington also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2017