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March 19, 2020

Arrest of Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief: Journalists continue countrywide protests

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March 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The workers of Geo and Jang Group flaked by other journalists, politicians and civil society activists Wednesday continued against arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and shifting of Geo News on the last numbers from its original position.

On the call of the Joint Action Committee of the workers of Geo, Jang and The News, journalists held protest in front of the Geo office in Islamabad. Addressing the protest camp, ex-Senator Enver Beg condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said that the NAB should be renamed as a national harassment bureau. He said the Jang Group is largest media group and playing its role for making stable and strong Pakistan.

Secretary General of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) Nasir Zaidi said that the government will not succeed in bringing the media into any pressure as the morale of the workers of the Geo and Jang Group was high.

Nasir Zaidi said Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah correctly said that the nation and press rise and fall together. “Those who wanted to impose curbs on the media were aiming to weaken the country,” he said.

Ex-president PFUJ Afzal Butt said the workers of Geo and Jang Group will write the new history with their protest against the arrest of the Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group. Renowned anchor-person and senior journalist Hamid Mir said media is always earand eyes of the nation and rulers were threatening to take out these. While demanding the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Hamid Mir said they will not allow to make Pakistan of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as deaf and dumb. He said the government was now busy in forming another case against Jang Group on an old issue.

Editor The News Rawalpindi Aamir Ghauri said those who wanted to curb the voice of free media cannot walk in the capital without the guards.

President RIUJ Aamir Sajjad Syed said new protest strategy should be adopted and now journalists should march towards the Parliament House and NAB Headquarters to lodge our protest. He said the journalist community of Islamabad and Rawalpindi stood with the workers of Geo and Jang group.

Editor Investigations The News Ansar Abbasi said the courts have raised questions on the NAB and its intentions. He said in the past General (R) Pervez Musharraf has closed the Geo and tried to frame a case on the charges of treason but he failed to do so.

Senior journalist Umar Cheema said the workers of the Geo and Jang group have struggle against those who wanted to supress the voice of media.

Senior reporter Mehtab Haider said the NAB after the Parliament now wanted to attack the media which is the fourth pillar of state, but the journalists will not accept it. He said the NAB wanted to give the silence the media with the arrest of the Editor-in-Chief of the largest media group of the country.

Senior journalist Farooq Aqdas said the workers of Geo and Jang Group always fight for the cause of the interest of the institution. “I wanted to give a message to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman that he should always remember the workers of Geo and Jang group who despite all the difficulties and this difficult time came up to protest,” he said.

Senior reporter Ghulam Qadir said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a professional editor. “The government-NAB nexus has been exposed with the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and shifting of Geo on the last numbers from its original position on cable,” he said.

The protest rally was also attended and addressed by Asif Bashir Chaudhry from Geo News, RIUJ Secretary General Asif Ali Bhatti, Masood Abdul Rahim, Arshad Waheed Chaudhry from Geo, Tanveer Hashmi from Jang, Ex-President RIUJ Mubark Zeb, Shafiq Chaudhry of Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, Auon Sheerazi, and many others.

In Karachi, a protest demonstration against the arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief and blanket ban on Geo News continued for the seventh day on Wednesday with dozens of journalists, media workers and trade unionists converging at the Azadi Street to denounce the federal government's coercive measures against the under pressure media freedom.

The Karachi Union of Journalists (Dastoori) president Tariq Abul Hasan said that despite the passage of week-long country-wide protests against the vindictive government policies against the Jang/Geo Group, the federal government is feigning deliberate ignorance and arrogance. Hasan said that the attack on Jang/Geo Group was an attack on the media freedom in the country, which barely exists. He said the government's crackdown against media has narrowed its focus on the Jang/Geo Group by slashing down its advertisements, arresting the group's editor in chief and then relegating the Geo channel slot on the cable to the later numbers.

Demanding the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and restoration of the Geo News on the previous numbers, Hassan said that the KUJ and other likeminded organisations who support free media will never abandon the Jang/Geo Group and will confront the intimidatory actions.

Karachi bureau chief of the Geo News Fahim Siddiqui said that Imran Khan, even before becoming the prime minister had personal issues with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and after attaining power he launched his vendetta. He added that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, although aware of the hostile environment, did not succumb to the pressure and continued to work for the media's freedom and supported journalism. Siddiqui seconded Hasan's comment that it was not just an attack on a single media house but a reminder to the entire media industry that they are next if they do not fall in line.

Labor leader Liaquat Sahi, who is associated with the Democratic Workers Union of the State Bank of Pakistan Employees, said that putting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman under undue long custody till March 26 after arresting him at premature investigation stage tantamount to victimising him more for the voices raised across the country and outside the country in his support against the revengeful moves.

Sahi said that the protest will continue against the government until it withdraws its vindictive policies, the struggle will further gain momentum and many other supporting the freedom of expression in the society would join the movement against the media curbs.

Jang Employees Union general secretary Shakeel Yamin Kanga said the journalists and media workers are demonstrating against the government's strong arm tactics.

Others who spoke to the demonstration include The News Employees Union general secretary Zafar Dara, Javed Press Union's Rana Yousuf, Shaheen Qureshi, Karamat Ali, Fawad Mahmood, Malik Muqaddar Zaman.

In Peshawar, hawkers association and media workers of Jang, Geo and The News jointly staged a demonstration to protest the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

The protesters carried banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the government for arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. They demanded the restoration of the Geo transmission to its original numbers. The protesters had gathered outside their offices on Wednesday and chanted slogans to express anger at the arrest.

The protestors chanted slogans “Geo ko jeenay do. Mir Shakil ko riha karo”. Led by Peshawar Press Club (PPC) President Syed Bukhar Shah and former president of Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) Arshad Aziz Malik, the protesters demanded the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and restoration of Geo transmission to its original number in the list of channels on cable.

Terming the Jang/Geo as one of the major media groups, the hawkers representative. Abdul Haleem, condemned the government for detaining Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for highlighting the truth. He said it was not the first time to pressurize Jang Group as the previous governments too had made similar attempts.

Terming it an attack on the media freedom, he urged the government to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and save the jobs of thousands of employees in this major media group. Syed Bukhar Shah demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and restoration of the Geo transmission to end the existing unrest among the media workers. He said the workers had been protesting for the last several days against the detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and pushing the Geo transmission down in the list of channels on cable.

The PPC chief said the journalists would never compromise on principles and intensify the protest if their demands were not accepted.

Arshad Aziz Malik condemned the government for arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and changing Geo position, saying such illegal actions were not acceptable to them. He said the activists of almost all the political parties would join them in their protest demonstrations from today (Thursday).

In Lahore, the workers of The News, Jang and Geo News demanded immediate release of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and restoration of Geo broadcasts while protesting on Davis Road.

The workers chanted slogans in favour of the Editor-in-Chief. They resolved and said the struggle would be continued until he was released. Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari said the spirit and morale of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was high. Arshad Ansari said, “Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is worried about his workers. He did not talk about his release; he was talking about his workers even in the custody of NAB. He will continue his struggle for freedom of speech. He talked about freedom of speech as he is torch-bearers of the free press.”

The press club president thanked Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Farhatullah Babar, Hamid Mir and other parties for their support for restoration of Geo News.

Ansari said all political parties were standing with the freedom of press and speech. Shuja Ahmed said that no one could suppress the freedom of press. “We stood against dictators Zia and Musharraf as well, Jang stood against them,” he said. Maqsood Butt, chief reporter of Jang, said the Editor-in-Chief believes in freedom of expression. He said Shakil-ur-Rahman never compromised with the powerful forces.

On the occasion, Ameen Hafeez dedicated his poem to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Wasif Nagi, chairman of Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman Memorial Society (MKRMS), expressed solidarity with the Editor-in-Chief and said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman always stood with his workers.

Raees Ansari, bureau chief of Geo said no one could divide workers of Jang, Geo group. They have stood with the Editor-in-Chief. Abdullah Malik, president of Civil Society Network, said the PTI government wanted to hide failure and illegally arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman so that he could not show their real face.

The Editor-in-Chief was arrested because of criticism of the wrong policies of the PTI government. To show the truth is legal responsibility of the Editor-in-Chief and on which he never compromised. Abdullah Malik said Imran Khan was doing the same as was done by Zia and Musharraf. Free media was the manifesto of PTI but Imarn Khan has taken U-turn on that. He said judiciary would give justice to Jang Group.

Shahab Ansari, Ali Raza, Khalid Khattak, Sher Ali Khalti, Asher Butt, Arshad Dogar, Asim Hussain, Amer Malik, Amir Riaz, Numan Wahab of daily The News demanded the PTI government and Prime Minister Imran Khan o immediately release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. They said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is the custodian of free press in Pakistan. Imran Khan came in power because of the media so he should not strangle the media, they said.

Meanwhile, a body comprising senior broadcast journalists expressed its concern over the relegation of the Geo News channel on cable TV and asked the authorities to investigate the matter and take corrective measures.

In a statement, the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) said, “The disruption in the placement of Geo News, as reported by the channel, and also noticed by viewers on various cable networks in the last few days, is a matter of serious concern and immediately needs corrective measures.”

“As per the Geo News management, no intimation or reasons have been given by Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for widespread disruption in the channel’s transmission across Pakistan,” it stated.

The body reminded the media regulator of its responsibilities in this regard. “AEMEND urgently calls on Pemra to perform its lawful duties and ensure that the channel position of Geo News is not arbitrarily and unlawfully removed.”

The association further called on Pemra to investigate the reasons for the changing of Geo’s channel number or removal on cable TV and to take action against those ultimately found responsible for this violation.

AMEND further said that changing the number of Geo News on cable and disruption in its broadcast posed a threat to freedom of media and is an attempt to prevent people from exercising their fundamental right to access to information.

The association also called on cable operators to contact the relevant law enforcement agencies if they are under undue pressure to change Geo channel position.