Threats to Canadian Pakistani Journalist Mohsin Abbas

Threats to Canadian Journalist Mohsin Abbas:

I share the synopsis of my Urdu language Op-Ed published at Urdu Times Canada, and USA. A PDF version of an easy to read Urdu File can be read by clicking:

Sahafi ko Dhamki

The news that Canadian journalist of Pakistani origin, Mohsin Abbas has received threats in Canada including death and kidnapping threat to his family in Pakistan have shocked people believing in Freedom of Expression in Canada and elsewhere. Several Canadian newspapers have reported it.
Mohsin Abbas, a Canadian journalist of Pakistani origin, graduated from the International Journalists program at Sheridan College and then interned at Hamilton Spectator for a period of time. I have been associated with this program during my tenure at PEN Canada that was one of its sponsors. He then worked with BBC, ABC, and other international media organization. Pakistan’s most well-known newspaper Dawn, also regularly publishes his opinions.

According to reports Dawn published an Op-Ed by Mohsin Abbas that informed about and satirized several Pakistani candidates at the mayoral elections in various Ontario municipalities. He opined that most of these candidates were not well versed in politics and were also not fully ready to mobilize support due to lack of structured programs. Dawn chose to share the images of the flyer of a losing candidate, Riazuddin Choudhry, who obtained less than 1000 votes out of about 164,000 cast in the mayoral race.

(Dawn’s blurb about Mohsin Abbas reads as, Mohsin Abbas is an award-winning Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker and press freedom activist. He is the editor of Diversity Reporter, a multilingual weekly newspaper for newcomers and immigrants in Canada.)

Mohsin Abbas alleged in police campaign that after the publication of the Dawn article he received a phone call from Choudhri in which words like killers were used. He also alleged that someone related to Choudhri, and carrying a gun, visited his brother in Pakistan and threatened that if the story was not retracted, two school going children of the brother will be kidnapped. Hamilton Spectator report suggested that they have a certified translation of phone call and that the word killers could be discerned. Halton Regional Police in Canada is investigating the report.

In an interview at another Canadian newspaper Choudhri has denied that allegation, and till the time of publication of that interview he did not participate in Police investigation. He also alleged that Mohsin Abbas owes him a sum of money. He never reported this to the police.

In another twist to this reported, when a Canadian Urdu newspaper Jang Canada published this story, copies of the newspaper mysteriously disappeared from various distribution points. Amir Arain the editor of Jang Canada confirmed that he also received complains about the disappearance of the copies, and was working hard to replenish. Some people have speculated that some supporters of Choudhry may have done that. Which is quite likely since a similar incident occurred several years ago when copies of another newspaper Watan were also removed from various distribution points when it published an advertisement about the annual convention of Ahamdiya Jamaat in Canada. I know of it firsthand since I was associated with Watan, and a religious leader invited me to a mosque expressed anger on the publication of such an advertisement.

I condemn any threat to any journalist in Canada and elsewhere, and also condemn all actions that may harm a newspaper. I also expect that a recently formed organization of Pakistani journalists in Canada will condemn these acts. A senior Canadian-Pakistani journalist Latafat Siddiqui, and Amir Arain of Jang Canada are among the founding members of this organization. Its statement of purpose on its Facebook page reads: “The aim of the organization is to look after Freedom of Expression issues in Pakistani Community in Canada as well as to serve as a watchdog body on issues of Freedom of Expression in Pakistan and elsewhere.”

I am willing to give the benefit of doubt to Choudhri, but expect that he should cooperate with the police to complete the investigation. If he felt that he was libeled against, then he could have sued Dawn, but he has squandered that opportunity.

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