ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday visited Dawn offices in Islamabad to express solidarity with its staffers who remained “under siege” of a mob on Monday.
A few dozen unidentified people staged a protest outside the Dawn offices over publication of a news report regarding the ethnicity of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.
On Tuesday, a similar protest was organised by Tehreek Tahaffuz-i-Pakistan Movement outside Karachi Press Club in which the participants chanted slogans against the newspaper.
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who was accompanied by party leaders Farhatullah Babar, Nayyar Hussain Bukhari and Faisal Karim Kundi, met Dawn’s Resident Editor Fahd Husain and DawnNews Bureau Chief Iftikhar Sherazi.
He condemned besieging of the Dawn offices and said it was an attempt to pressuring media.
“Media organisations are being threatened but we will not allow anyone to curb freedom of press,” said Mr Zardari, who is also National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights chairman.
Expressing solidarity with Dawn and the journalist community, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said media environment was becoming hostile and PPP stood with Dawn at this time and wants to work in tackling this environment.
“There are various journalistic standards all over the world, but it’s the responsibility of governments to ensure freedom of press,” he said.
“It is a black day in the history of the country that Dawn offices have been attacked in the capital in such a manner,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists-Afzal Butt Group (PFUJ) Secretary General Nasir Zaidi along with other union members visited the offices of the newspaper.
“We will not allow any attempt to sabotage press freedom. We have decided to gather outside Dawn building in Islamabad on Thursday to give a message that the journalist community is united,” he said.
In a joint statement, the newly-elected office-bearers of PFUJ, including its president Shehzada Zulfiqar and the secretary general, condemned the “aggression and hooliganism” against Dawn on the second consecutive day.
“We strongly condemn uncalled for pressuring tactics, anti-media behaviour and harassment of Dawn and its employees,” it stated.
Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) President Arif Nizami also expressed concern over the incident.
In a statement, Mr Nizami said under the incumbent government attacks on journalism had increased manifold which pointed to its hostility towards the so-called fourth pillar of the state.
He also condemned statements made by sitting ministers that preceded the besieging of Dawn offices, saying the remarks were a source of concerns for the journalist community.
He questioned the silence of the government officials on the incident, saying the policies employed by the government against media were hurting journalists.
The CPNE chief said journalists must be free to report independently without any fear or pressure.
All-Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation (Apnec) Chairman Ikram Bukhari also condemned the besieging of the Dawn offices.
Media Workers Organisation President Kaleem Shamim and Secretary General Raja Javed termed the incident an attempt to curb media freedom.
In Battagram, journalists at a meeting chaired by former president of the local press club Abdur Rehman Khan said besieging of Dawn offices in Islamabad was highly condemnable and an open threat to freedom of expression.
Protest in Karachi
Dozens of people also staged a protest demonstration outside Karachi Press Club against Dawn.
The participants were carrying placards and banners, some of which mentioned Tehreek Tahaffuz-i-Pakistan Movement, as the organiser of the protest.
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.”