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Pakistani Journalists, Rights Defenders Denounce Threats Against Leading Newspaper

Pakistani journalists and rights activists hold a banner reading "Solidarity With Dawn Workers" during a demonstration in Islamabad on December 5.

ISLAMABAD -- Journalists, human rights activists, and politicians have rallied in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities in support of the leading newspaper Dawn, after an angry crowd of demonstrators threatened its staffers.

The protesters gathered at the office of Pakistan’s oldest English-language daily in the capital on December 5, chanting slogans in support of press freedom and freedom of speech.

Similar rallies were in Karachi, Lahore, and Quetta.

The protests come two days after dozens of demonstrators besieged Dawn’s Islamabad office, blocking staff from entering or exiting the building.

Demonstrators also gathered at the Karachi Press Club holding signs calling for Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas and publisher Hameed Haroon to be hanged.

The motive for the protests was an article published by Dawn in which the perpetrator of a terrorist attack in London on November 29 was described as “of Pakistani origin” -- which Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called a “simple, widely verified piece of information.”

RSF urged the authorities to issue a “public and unequivocal condemnation” of the siege of Dawn’s office, which it said was “clearly orchestrated” and “constitutes yet another absolutely unacceptable act of intimidation towards Pakistan’s leading daily.”

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protest Journalists (CPJ) called on Pakistani authorities to “take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Dawn’s staff.”

“Pakistanis have every right to object to and demonstrate against the Dawn newspaper over its coverage, but threatening violence steps way over the line,” Kathleen Carroll, the New York-based media freedom watchdog’s board chairwoman, said in a statement.