Protests for Editor-in-Chief’s release: Govt’s vengeful campaign against independent press criticised

August 13, 2020

KARACHI/LAHORE/ PESHAWAR: The Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and his cabinet should be held accountable for their policies against the citizens of Pakistan and for their vengeful campaign against the...

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KARACHI/LAHORE/ PESHAWAR: The Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and his cabinet should be held accountable for their policies against the citizens of Pakistan and for their vengeful campaign against the Jang-Geo Group, said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Iqbal Khaksar on Wednesday speaking to the protest against the unduly long detention of the Editor-in-Chief.

The workers of the Jang-Geo Group have been agitating countrywide against the gags on the free press, particularly focusing on government's vendetta against the Jang-Geo Group since the inauguration of the PTI government. The protesters said Geo’s numbers were manipulated to downgrade its public access, there was organized hindrance in circulation of the Group’s newspapers and demands to sack reporters and anchors, etc. It was all aimed to shut down the Geo News channel and damage the newspapers of the group for refusing to make its editorial policy subservient to the government’s demands.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Iqbal Khaksar said that it was inevitable for all the media houses to unite and resist the government’s dictation or they will be next in line. He said that the Jang-Geo Group has been subjected to victimization for its independent editorial policies. The All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation’s secretary general Shakil Yamin Kanga said that they would be expanding their protest to the streets in the coming days. The News Employees Union’s general secretary Dara Zafar, Javed Press Employees Union’s general secretary Rana Yusuf and APNEC’s secretary information Fawad Mehmood also addressed the protest.

Meanwhile, prominent civil society, human rights and labour rights activists welcomed the recent statement by the Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Prof. Dr. Qibla Ayaz, who termed the arrest and continued detention of Mir Shakil as “anti-Sharia and anti-democratic” and demanded immediate release of the senior journalist.

In a joint statement, Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Liaquat Sahi of State Bank Democratic Workers Union, Nasir Mansoor of National Trade Unions Federation, Habibuddin Junaidi of Peoples Labour Bureau, Ms Mahnaz Rahman of Aurat Foundation, Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre, Ms Zehra Khan, General Secretary Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), and others said that many national and international human rights, media organisations have been demanding Rahman’s release as there was no justification to keep him detained. They pointed out that Prof. Dr. Qibla Ayaz has rightly pointed out that NAB's approach to deal with corruption cases is against the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

“It is an attempt to curb freedom of expression and independence of the media in Pakistan,” they said adding that the NAB law should be amended by the parliament to make it compliant to the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR) and other international commitments as well as the Constitution of Pakistan. They said it is a grave violation of the fundamental rights that people are kept in jails for months and even years for investigation, whereas the actual charges are seldom framed.

In Peshawar, the journalist community sought the release of the Jang-Geo’s Group Editor-in-Chief in their protests. They gathered at the offices of the Daily Jang, The News and Geo TV after staging a walk at the Khyber Super Market.

Daily Jang Resident Editor Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali, Farmanullah Jan, Shah Zaman, Qaisar Khan, Gulzar Khan, Imdad Ali Qazalbash and others spoke on the occasion. They condemned the coercive tactics being employed against the free media. They said Mir Shakil is behind bars since March 12 under fabricated and trumped up charges and demanded his release.

In Lahore, journalists, civil society leaders, office bearers of media unions and trade union of Jang Group strongly condemned the PTI government for keeping the editor-in-chief of the country’s largest media group detained under NAB custody in a politically motivated case for the last 152 days without finding any proof of their charges or making any progress in investigations. They were staging a demonstration outside the Jang offices at the protest strike camp of the workers of Geo, Jang and The News employees.

The participants chanted slogans against the present regime calling it fascist and condemned the illegal and anti-media tactics of NAB.



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