Islamists besiege Pakistan's independent newspaper, call for editor, publisher to be hanged

ISLAMABAD -- Dozens of angry Islamists 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 Wednesday.

A simultaneous protest also took place Tuesday evening in the southern port city of Karachi, where the Islamists gathered at the Press Club, demanding that Dawn's editor Zaffar Abbas and publisher Hameed Haroon be hanged.

Dec. 3, 2019, photo, angry Islamists chant slogans during a demonstration against an independent Pakistani newspaper Dawn, at outside the Press Club in Karachi, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Dec. 3, 2019, photo, angry Islamists chant slogans during a demonstration against an independent Pakistani newspaper Dawn, at outside the Press Club in Karachi, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

The demonstrators, who later dispersed, were angered that the English-language paper had reported that the London Bridge attacker was of "Pakistani origin."

The Islamist protest was condemned by Pakistani rights groups, journalist organizations, politicians and members of civil society advocating for the rights of journalists.

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.

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Last month, Abbas was awarded the 2019 Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists.