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UK journalists demand justice, release of MSR

The News/Files

LONDON: The Overseas Pakistani Journalists Action Committee (OPJAC) on Monday called for Jang Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman's release, demanding immediate justice in the case.

At a protest in West London, journalists from several TV channels and newspapers gathered under the OPJAC's banner and raised slogans for the release of MSR — who has been in National Accountability Beaureu (NAB)'s custody for nearly four months in a case pertaining to the purchase of a private property almost 34 years ago.

The Pakistan Journalists Association (PJA), Pakistan Press Club, and members of two other associations took part in the protest. The Pakistani diaspora in the UK also participated in the demonstration against the PTI-led government’s moves to curb freedom of media in Pakistan.

"This is the worst example of the state's oppression in order to swallow the media's freedoms," Wajahat Ali Khan, a protester, said.

"We condemn the fake case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demand his immediate release. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been detained only to teach a lesson to the entire media fraternity of Pakistan."

Noting that every patriotic overseas Pakistani condemns MSR's arrest, another participant in the protest, Shaukat Dar, said: "We demand that he be freed immediately. It’s a mockery of justice that MSR has been in detention for nearly four months without any evidence of wrongdoing against him or any case against him.

"The PTI government and NAB Chairman are responsible for this illegal action."

Dar added that the entire world's journalists had only one demand and that was the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

OPJAC Convener Azhar Javed lamented how whenever a government was in trouble, they would attack the journalists' fraternity. The sacrifices of the Jang Group dated back to Pakistan's history of 70 years, Javed added.

"It was unfortunate that the media was being strangulated in Pakistan on the belief that it will somehow help the PTI government," he rued.

Another participant, Ghulam Hussain Awan, said: "MSR gave 180 kanals to the LDA and got 56 kanals in return. For this crime, he is being punished today which is clearly politically motivated."

Pakistani media has spoken against the arrest and detention of MSR.

Senior journalist Kashif Abbasi also condemned the illegal detention of the veteran journalist, saying there was no basis to keep him under continued detention.

The NAB had arrested MSR on March 12 even before formal charges were made against him. The case — which was used to justify this arrest — was a property transaction that occurred 34 years ago in 1986.

Previously, the South Asia Democracy Watch wrote to The White House, the Secretary of State, members of the US Senate, and House members of the Foreign Relations Committee condemning the illegal confinement of Jang Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

The US State Department, European Union, and the German government have also raised the question as to why Mir Shakil was arrested without being charged with any crime.

MSR's arrest has also caused an outcry in Pakistan as well as in international forums. Most major journalistic organisations — including Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists — have termed it as an attack on press freedom.

Pakistan has also fallen three spots in the Global Press Freedom Index — from 142 to 145 — out of 180 countries.