In a 10 May statement, the government confirmed that disciplinary measures could be taken against Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas and reporter Cyril Almeida over the so- called “Dawn Leaks” affair, an explosive story published in October 2016 based on leaks from within the government.
The prime minister’s office said in a statement that the story “had no relevance to actual discussion and facts.” But the army insisted on the creation of a commission of enquiry with the aim of punishing those who had leaked classified information. Several government officials were removed as a result.
Dawn is Pakistan’s oldest newspaper and enjoys a great deal of credibility with the country’s journalist community, readers and civil society.
In an editor’s note defending the story, Abbas wrote: “First, this newspaper considers it a sacred oath to its readers to pursue its reporting fairly, independently and, above all, accurately. The story that has been rejected by prime minister’s office as a fabrication was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.”
In a bid to exploit the case and make an example out of Dawn, the government has also now announced that it also wants to establish a “code of conduct” for the entire print media.
“This attempt by the civilian authorities and the military to punish journalists is very disturbing,” RSF editor-in- chief Virginie Dangles said. “The authorities must abandon the disciplinary measures and the creation of a ‘code of conduct’ for the print media, which would set a dangerous precedent and make the environment for journalists in Pakistan even more hostile."