Hameed Haroon sees raid at Dawn
KARACHI- Dawn Group of Newspapers, the country’s largest independent English newspaper and magazine publishing house, has contended that the “high handed manner in which inspection by Army Monitoring Team (AMT) was carried out at its premises in Karachi, left an indelible impression that a punitive raid, rather then an electrical inspection was its basic objective as no other newspaper has been recipient of a similar inspection such as the Dawn Group has witnessed.
“The unwarranted intrusion of armed personnel onto premises of Dawn gave rise to distinct speculation that a threatening posture had been adopted by the military authorities on pretext an unfruitful electricity inspection. No apparent wrongdoing was either noted or observed by the representatives of KESC or Military,” CEO and Publisher of Dawn newspaper Hameed Haroon said.
“The presence of army personnel, however, in this kind of operation is unprecedented. Perhaps this is the administration’s way of indicating what lies ahead for remnants of a besieged free press in Pakistan,” he maintained.
According to Hameed Haroon this incident needs to be looked into as it is likely to ” endanger functioning of free press in Pakistan. Our colleagues in press freedom organisations throughout the world, have always been of great source of moral inspiration and help in fighting previous attempts to muzzle voice of a free press.”
He stated that there have been several warnings over last few days to publishers, editors and journalists of Dawn Group that the authorities were preparing for something “significant. In particular, the government strongly protested against writings of a senior Dawn journalist who had earlier commented in a dispatch from New York that the government was preparing to initiate a new round of repressive measures against the free press.
“Recent legal notices sent to Dawn by the Information Minister and a senior official of Ministry of Information, not to mention watering down of a proposed Freedom of Information Act draft, served as major indicators of a new press strategy being pursued by the present military regime. The independent policies followed by Dawn and its sister publications have proved to be first target of such repressive measures,” he further contended.
Haroon gave details of the inspection by army personnel at Dawn premises here on September 27, 2000 and said the team threatened immediate disconnection of electric supply to the press and consequential stoppage of all newspaper printing and publishing activities of Dawn Group, if immediate and complete access by armed personnel to Dawn premises, including offices of publishers, editors, journalists, satellite communication rooms and secured areas where sensitive pre-press and printing technology effects daily printing of Dawn and its sister publication, was not allowed. The AMT refused to comply with security procedures of Dawn enforced since terrorist bomb blasts over a year ago.
After four hours inspection process, the AMT prepared a statement and ordered management representatives present to sign it. “Although the statement virtually cleared Dawn’s headquarters of any charges arising as a consequence of this operation, representatives of Dawn management refused to sign it on grounds that duress was being applied, especially as nothing untoward had been uncovered. In particular report prepared by KESC engineers cleared Dawn of any wrong doing in every single one of 18 listed criterions for billing discrepancies. A compromise was affected whereby, one of the legal advisors of Dawn Group, signed the document without prejudice, to, any future observations that Dawn or its legal advisors might wish to make with respect to findings of the document, he said.
Haroon said that Dawn Group pays over Rs 10 million of electricity dues annually and has never defaulted on payments.
Source: Business Recorder