A large crowd held protests outside the Dawn Newspaper office in Islamabad and Karachi Press Club last week after the newspaper reported that Usman Khan, the London Bridge attacker, was associated with Pakistan. Khan had stabbed two people to death and left three injured a day before the Dawn report. Protestors chanted slogans against Dawn Media Group, hurled death threats, demanded Hameed Haroon (owner of Dawn) and Zaffar Abbas (Editor of Dawn) be hanged, burnt copies of the newspaper and held a number of journalists hostage for hours in Dawn Office in Islamabad, while they continued their protests.
— Sania (@sania9200) December 2, 2019
Pakistan newspaper Dawn besieged by Islamists calling for editor to be hanged over London Bridge coverage
The mob was angry that the attacker was identified as being of Pakistani origin https://t.co/zahpoAIm8f
— Natasha Fatah (@NatashaFatah) December 12, 2019
This is not the first time that Dawn Newspaper has taken heat over their stories. Since the Dawn Leaks scandal in 2016, it has been in the government's bad books and some people think these protests are a continuation of the smear campaign against the outlet.
Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Federal Minister for Science & Technology, lashed at Dawn with tweets:
Dawn walas please have some mercy on this Nation, shocked on your cheap attempt to link a British terroist to Pakistan, Anwar Al Awlaki and Anjem ch both are brit origin nothing to do with Kashmir or Pak, Britain should handle its problem within—irresponsible n cheap attitude pic.twitter.com/tvldBCNMUd
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) December 1, 2019
If Dawn was wrong to identify the terrorist Usman Khan as being of Pakistani origin, how should the authorities that allowed his body to be flown to our country be described? https://t.co/ZXnXptAFii
— Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi) December 6, 2019
On social media, people started tweeted against the paper using the hashtag #BoycottIndianDawn:
Yet to see such a shameless media house #DawnNews that keeps retriating Indian narratives where personal interests&affiliation takes precedence over National interest.@pid_gov It's high time to fix such an unprofessional riff raff. Bloody traitors!#BoycottIndianDawn pic.twitter.com/U8fSXt58Dt
— Asma Khan (@IKhanz_Tigress) December 1, 2019
Zaffar Abbas, the Editor of Dawn News recently received the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award for “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.” He tweeted about the protest:
Yet another orchestrated demo against Dawn outside it’s office in Islamabad. Same lot, threatening tone, bigger in nmbr & hve blocked entrance. We hve informed police, & hve told them it’s their duty to protect our staff & property. Let’s hope someone from govt. will intervene!!
— Zaffar Abbas (@abbasz55) December 6, 2019
They have just dispersed after burning some copies of Dawn. Everyone has a right to protest as long as they are not violent. https://t.co/b30VFqIvQH
— Zaffar Abbas (@abbasz55) December 6, 2019
The Dawn was also criticized for another headline recently.
— Murtaza Solangi (@murtazasolangi) December 9, 2019
Umer Ali points this out:
The Express Tribune and The News used similar phrasing as Dawn. So did the state radio and news agency.
But Pakistan's military spokesperson singles out Dawn for “factually incorrect” reporting. Pretty extraordinary given the context. https://t.co/TTeurxpHy7
— Umer Ali (@IamUmer1) December 9, 2019
For about a year now, Dawn Newspaper has been banned from distribution in the Lahore Cantonment, and after this recent incident, Defense Housing Authority (DHA) also banned Dawn Newspaper in their area:
After harassing and threatening Dawn and its media workers (for their report on creation of Twitter trends for political agendas), the “unknown persons” are now banning #Dawn newspaper in their housing societies. Shame!
Yeh jo گنڈہ-گردی hai
Kya iske peechay وردی hai? pic.twitter.com/lKEDtUPOys
— Maria H. Malik ☭ (@marriyamalik1) December 6, 2019
Translation: “DHA has placed a ban on Dawn Newspaper. In lieu of this paper distribute the alternate papers.”
“Is uniform (military) behind public intimidation”
Apart from leftist groups in Pakistan, politicians and opposition parties also extended their support to Dawn News. The Journalist community also protested against the incident condemning criticism of the outlet as a way of curtailing media in Pakistan. International journalists’ rights groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists, International Press Institute and Reporters Without Borders condemned the incident and asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to look into this matter urgently.