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March 25, 2020

Media gag

Editorial

 
March 25, 2020

At a time when the cooperation of the media could play a vital role in defeating the corona crisis which has crippled us, NAB continues its vendetta against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the Jang/Geo group. The accountability body has been unable to produce evidence in court, in its case involving land purchase which dates back 34 years, and in which no wrongdoing has been established between the two private parties involved. The next date of hearing falls on Thursday. Attempts also continue to dig up evidence in other cases which NAB claims Mir Shakil has been involved in.

Meanwhile, politicians and activists have spoken up against the arrest of the man who owns the largest media group in the country. Almost all mainstream opposition political parties and leaders have condemned the action. So have international media watchdog bodies. Essentially, it is obvious the detention of Mir Shakil and the rather far-fetched cases filed against him are yet another attempt at harassment by NAB. In this case, as journalists have already said, the attempt is quite obviously to silence the media. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is in jail not because of corruption or other crime, but because he flatly refused to ask anchors on television shows or print media journalists from holding back on their stories or the questions they have put concerning governmental performance or the performance of specific agencies.

It is necessary for the government to understand that the primary job of the media in any situation and in any country is to highlight the weaknesses and flaws within governance and authorities which have an impact on running the country. If it fails to do so, it is essentially failing in its duty. As editor-in-chief of this group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has a record of repeatedly refusing to succumb to pressure. The government must understand that at this point in time a free media is entirely essential. It is required to provide accurate news to people on all matters, including the current virus situation and also keep them informed on preventive measures or the ongoing situation. The Jang Group has in fact already begun such a campaign. It needs to be widened. Most importantly, the right to free expression safeguarded by our constitution must be protected at all costs. It is essential all those in power understand this, instead of continuing to boast about a 'free media' that does not exist.