An upsetting wave of outright press sabotage has taken hold of the country, and Pakistan’s oldest English publication, Dawn, seems to be getting the worst of it.
According to Dawn, this wave of suppression has been ongoing since 2016 due to the publishing of an article, which officials later claimed contained false information.
Reportedly, following this incident, Dawn’s editor and the particular reporter were subjected to a prolonged, often uncomfortably invasive period of questioning by a government-led committee.
But the real cause for concern emerged about a month ago when the situation escalated after the publication of an exclusive interview with former PM Nawaz Sharif. This is when antagonism against Dawn reached new heights.
This attack has manifested itself through actual interception of Dawn’s newspapers in Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan. Newspaper hawkers and vans are being stopped by officials on their way to delivering papers to subscribers and threatened with dire consequences if they continue with distribution.
This is being recognized by the Committee For the Protection of Journalists as a blatant violation of press freedom:
Some are of the opinion that this was bound to happen as part of one of the larger election-related conspiracies:
Meanwhile, parallels are being drawn between the Targeting Dawn campaign and the press freedom scandal in India, which has revealed Indian media groups to be taking bribes from certain political parties which want to be favorably represented in the wake of the 2019 elections.
While Dawn is calling upon the authorities to take notice of the harassment and violence with which its staff is being threatened, some are also pointing out that it is a direct violation of Article 19, which promises press freedom. There are some who are unwilling to stand by in support:
‘Dawn, like all free, independent media organizations, has never argued that it does not make journalistic mistakes and errors in editorial judgment’ – no media publication is infallible. But in the wake of severe repression of the democratic right of free expression, it is imperative that this case is looked into by the relevant authorities. And, equally important that we raise our voices to ensure our constitutional freedoms are protected.