The English-language newspaper came under attack for publishing an article which said British-born London Bridge attacker Usman Khan had Pakistani origins. British press reported Khan's family was from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Dozens of unidentified angry protesters swarmed the building of an independent Pakistani newspaper in the capital, Islamabad, blocking its entrance for several hours, threatening the staff and demanding its editor be hanged, the paper reported on Wednesday.
A simultaneous protest also took place Tuesday evening in the southern port city of Karachi, where protesters gathered at the Press Club, demanding that Dawn’s editor Zaffar Abbas and publisher Hameed Haroon be hanged.
The demonstrators, who later dispersed, were angered that the English-language paper had reported that the London Bridge attacker was of “Pakistani origin.” The report also sparked some backlash on social media where the paper was accused of following an Indian agenda.
The protest was condemned by Pakistani politicians, rights groups, journalist organisations, politicians and members of civil society advocating for the rights of journalists.
Dawn was attacked today because of its 3 column front page headline Sunday admitting that London bridge attacker Usman Khan, a UK national, was of Pak origin. Taking pride in a UK boxer of Pak origin but attacking Dawn for identifying Pak origin of a militant is hypocrisy.— Farhatullah Babar (@FarhatullahB) December 2, 2019
So, the offices of Pakistan's leading English language newspaper, Dawn, which has been under pressure for years from the country's military establishment, are besieged by a mysterious mob which is shouting 'long live the ISI' and 'long live the Pakistan army'....... https://t.co/JwjWZDBAH7— Saeed Shah (@SaeedShah) December 2, 2019
In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged Pakistan to prevent protests against the newspaper from turning violent and investigate death threats to its staffers.
“Pakistanis have every right to object to and demonstrate against the Dawn newspaper over its coverage, but threatening violence steps way over the line,” said Kathleen Carroll, the board chair at Committee to Protest Journalists.
The newspaper has a history of strained ties with the country’s military.
Cyril Almeida, a journalist working for Dawn, was charged last year with treason after an interview with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in which Sharif accused the military of aiding the militants who had carried out the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Last month, Abbas was awarded the 2019 Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists.