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March 20, 2020

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

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March 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI/LAHORE: The workers of the Geo, Jang and The News Thursday continued their countrywide protest against the arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and closure of Geo news at some places and shifting of its number from the original position on the cable.

The protest call was given by the Joint Action Committee of the workers of Geo News, Jang and The News against the arrest of Shakil-ur-Rahman and closure of Geo News at some place and shifting of its number from the original position.

Secretary General Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Nasir Zaidi announced to launch a protest movement from the platform of the PFUJ against the curbs on freedom of media from March 24 and protest made at the level of districts headquarters throughout Pakistan and it would be participated by the political workers, representatives of the civil society, human rights activists, and labour unions.

Addressing the protest camp of the workers of the Geo, Jang and The News, President PML-N of the

federal capital and ex-minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said the present rulers are attacking the media. He said the whole nation stood with the workers of Geo and Jang Group and all the political parties of the country has declared the arrest of Editor-in-Chief illegal and unconstitutional. “All the democratic forces and political parties are demanding the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman,” he said.

Ex-MNA of the PPP from erstwhile tribal areas Akhunzada Chattan said the people of the tribal areas stood with the Jang Group and expressing their solidarity with them in this difficult time. “We always stood with the Jang Group,” he said.

Akhunzada said the media projected Imran Kahn in last 10 years, but the people were not ready to accept him as a leader. He said no accountability was possible without free media and free courts.

Chairman Joint Action Committee Nasir Chishti said the government should not test the patience of the workers of Jang Group and if Pemra did not implement the directives of the Islamabad High Court for restoring Geo on its original numbers then the workers of the Jang Group will hold protest at Pemra office.

Senior journalist and anchor-person Hamid Mir said the main purpose of putting the pressure was to supress the voices as the Punjab administration and police was targeting the journalists due to ongoing protest. “We will continue to fight not only against the coronavirus but also continue our protest against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman,” he said.

He proposed that that if it was sincere to bring the media out of crisis then should announced to pay the dues of Rs3 billion out of the pending dues of over Rs6 billion to the media houses and from the platforms of PFUJ the APNS and PBA will be forced to use this amount only for the payment of salaries of media workers. “If the government accepted our proposal then it will be clear that the government is genuinely sincere on resolving the media crisis,” he said.

Resident Editor Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khali endorsed the proposal of Hamid Mir and raised the slogans for early release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Ex-president PFUJ Afzal Butt said Hamid Mir proposal will be examined. He said the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group was only to frighten the media workers but media workers stood up to show solidarity with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Renowned anchor-person Salim Safi said Imra Khan was always afraid of going to jail. H said Pukhtoons not only fight against British Raj bit also against the Taliban, whom Imran Khan used to praise. He said Jang group always give priority to the issue of Fata for which the people of tribal areas appreciated it and will stand with the Jang Group at this difficult time.

Ex-secretary Rawalpindi Press Club and senior reportor of Jang Rana Ghulam Qadir praised Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq, senior leader of the PML-N Maryam Nawaz Sharif, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, Senator Sherry Rehman and parliamentarians of MQM who condemned the illegal and unconstitutional arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group.

General Manager of Jang Islamabad Syed Amjad Ali said the government has centralised the distribution of government advertisements to put the media under pressure.

Senior Reporter of Geo News Asif Ali Bhatti said the Jang Group has tried to project Imran Khan as a national hero with good intentions but unfortunately Imran Khan proved himself incapable.

Senior sports correspondent of The News Abdul Mohi Shah said the Jang Group has faced same kind of tactics from the rulers in the past but never bow down.

Senior reporter of Jang Farooq Aqdas said the journalists and media workers were always on forefront to protect the freedom of media and will continue to do it. Senior reporter of the Jang Ayb Nasir said the workers always stood with the Jang Group in all the difficult times.

Senior reporter of Geo Amina Nasir said the Geo always raised voice for the rights of people of Pakistan and give courage to people to ask questions from their rulers which is not liked by the rulers.

Rana Khurram of Geo said workers of Geo and Jang group will always stand with Geo and Jang Group. Arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is an attack on the freedom of media/Press, said Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) President Qamaruz Zaman Bhatti.

An important meeting Thursday of PUJ’s executive council was held in Lahore following the arrest Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. It was decided in the meeting that PUJ would stand with the workers of The News, Jang and Geo. Solidarity with media workers was showed on the occasion.

Meeting of the general house would also be called. PUJ has started a movement for saving journalism. Issues of unemployment of journalists, their layoffs and payment of salaries of journalists were also raised in the meeting.

In Sialkot, several local dignitaries of different walks of life condemned the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Former Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) senior vice president Muhammad Ayub Khan said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was totally illegal and baseless. He termed his arrest as a tactic on the part off the government to bring the Jang Group under pressure and to silence the voice of truth.

The PPP leader Chaudhry Rasheed Sandhu said the Jang Group has always been a strong critical voice against dictatorship of all kinds and due to such stance of the group its Editor-in-Chief has been detained.

The JI local leader Hafiz Malik Amir Hameed said the rulers are not resolving issues of the country but rather they are targeting the voices of the people. In Karachi, despite the coronavirus scare, a large number of employees of Jang/Geo Group along with journalists and civil society activists attended the ongoing protest against the arrest of the group's Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the relegation of Geo News to lower slots on TV channel listings.

At the call of the Joint Action Committee of the workers of Geo, Jang, and The News, the protest continued on the eighth day on Thursday as a large number of journalists held a demonstration against the arrest of Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief and a blanket ban on the Geo News outside the Jang building at the II Chundrigar Road to denounce the federal government's coercive measures against an already under-pressure media.

The participants of the protest held placards that read: "Bahaal Karo, Bahaal Karo. Geo News Ko Bahaal Karo" (Restore Geo News, Restore Geo News) and "Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman Ki Giriftari Azadi-e-Sahafat Par Hamla Hai " (Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman's arrest is an attack on press freedom). The Jang administration had provided masks and sanitizers to the participants of the protest as precautionary measures from coronavirus.

Speakers, including Karachi bureau chief of the Geo News Fahim Siddiqui, senior journalist Shaheen Qureshi, The News Employees Union General Secretary Zafar Dara, Jang Publications Employees Union (CBA) secretary Shakil Yamin Kanga, and Javed Press Union’s Rana Yousuf, said that the government has personal issues with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and, after coming into power, it has launched vendetta against the Jang Group. Terming the curbs on Jang-Geo Group as an attack on the media freedom in the country, speakers said that Jang Group is the largest media group which is playing its role for making stable and strong Pakistan and keeping the people informed. They said the federal government's crackdown against media has narrowed its focus on the Jang Group by slashing down its advertisements, arresting the group's editor in chief and then relegating the Geo channel slot on the cable to lower numbers.

Aware of the hostile environment, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman did not succumb to the mounting pressure and continued to work for the media's freedom and support journalism, they said. They also said that journalist community across the country and abroad stood with the workers of the Jang-Geo group. They also said that because of the orders of the Islamabad High Court and protests by the employees of the group, support of civil society and political groups, the Geo channel is now being restored to its original correct TV channel listings in some places. They also said that despite the fear of coronavirus spread, the participation of a large number of journalists in the protest shows their commitment to media freedom and its independence.