Pakistani journalist Saleem Asmi, who dared to publish Osama's interview, passes away - GulfToday

Pakistani journalist Saleem Asmi, who dared to publish Osama's interview, passes away


Saleem Asmi speaks during an event in Karachi. File

Tariq Butt, Correspondent


Veteran Pakistani journalist and former editor of Dawn, Saleem Asmi passed away in Karachi on Saturday, according to family and friends.


Asmi was the first Dawn editor from the news side, having served as a news editor in Dawn and a Gulf-based daily.


He was also responsible for launching Dawn’s Islamabad edition. During his time at Dawn, he paid special attention to covering art.


Of the two magazines he left behind, The Gallery, as the name suggests, concerned art; the other was Books and Authors.


During his stint as editor, he decided to publish Osama Bin Laden’s interview by TV anchor Hamid Mir, even though he was a non-staffer, because the interview contained hard news about nuclear technology.


His colleague during his time at Dawn, Nizamuddin Siddiqi, said Asmi brought significant changes to the paper by introducing magazines and focused more on national news.


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Asmi had also served as the president of the Karachi Press Club (KPC).


According to KPC Secretary Arman Sabir, the senior journalist's funeral prayers will be decided after the arrival of his two sons who live abroad.


Condolences poured in as colleagues and friends reacted to the death of the senior journalist.


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Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman said Asmi carried "exceptional courage around him like a casual accessory, never talking about it, just using it when needed."


Hasan Zaidi, editor magazine Dawn, called the senior journalist a "wonderful human being."


Bilal Farooqui, a journalist working for The Express Tribune, said Asmi was "a guiding light for so many seeking to understand journalistic standards and practices."


Dawn correspondent Nasir Jamal said there were "no words to express his feelings" at Asmi's demise.


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"A wonderful journalist and one of the finest editors, and more than that a great human being. I am proud to have worked under him," he said.


Shazia Hasan, another Dawn correspondent, recalled Asmi taking a chance and hiring her as a 19-year-old student.


"He often called me after reading my reports and would tell me to write shorter intros," she said.


"Recently, we had met at KPC and I was telling someone in front of him that editors come and go but Asmi is 'my' editor because he hired me," she said.


He replied that if he was still editor he would have fired me because of my long intros for news reports drawing laughter from the people around us, she remembered.


Journalist Owais Tohid said the senior journalist was "a rock solid editor and a beautiful painter who believed in liberal values [and] stood for human rights".

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