ISLAMABAD: A few dozen unidentified people on Monday staged a protest outside Dawn offices over publication of a news report regarding the ethnicity 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.
They prevented the employees from entering or leaving the building and demanded a written apology. Some of the protesters also misbehaved with the newspaper as well as Dawn TV employees when they arrived at the office.
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.
After lengthy negotiations with the newspaper management in the presence of an assistant commissioner, the protesters finally agreed to disperse after hurling warnings.
Meanwhile, the incident was widely condemned by leaders of various political parties, parliamentarians and journalist bodies.
Chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Kokhar has also taken notice of the besieging of Dawn offices by the unidentified persons and directed the inspector general of police Islamabad to submit a report on the issue to the committee by December 6. He had also sought details of the action taken by the police against those who had besieged the media house.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the incident, saying that “no one should be allowed to attack media outlets in the name of protest”.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari demanded “action against the crowd which attacked the newspaper office and vowed to side with the journalist fraternity”.
PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb called for a high-level investigation into the incident to identify and punish the perpetrators.
In a statement, Ms Aurangzeb said it was imperative to set a precedent by awarding strict punishment to those who attacked the newspaper office so that it should act as a deterrent in future.
“Such actions are unacceptable in any civilised society,” she said, pledging that the people, politicians and media will join hands in the fight against such elements.
National Party (NP) Punjab president Ayub Malik termed it as an “attack on media freedom”. He also called for strict action against the “unidentified persons” for holding the newspaper employees hostage. He asked the government to identify the people with the help of video footages available on social media.
Meanwhile, office-bearers of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC) also condemned the incident.
Newly-elected president of the PFUJ-Afzal Butt Group Shehzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi demanded an inquiry.
The incident, they said, was an eye opener for the government and must not be ignored.
NPC President Shakil Qarar, in a statement, said working journalists would not allow curbs on press freedom, and asked the government to take steps for the protection of media persons.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019