KARACHI/ MULTAN/ RAWAL- PINDI/PESHAWAR: The workers of Geo News and dailies Jang and The News across the country protested for the unconditional and honourable release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-Ur-Rahman, terming it part of a systematic campaign to muzzle the freedom of expression and independent media.
The group's workers on Wednesday were joined in their protest campaign on the 55th day by a large cross-section of civil society, political workers, media and journalist organisations and together they pledged to continue their unabated struggle till the release of their Editor-in-Chief.
They raised slogans and carried placards inscribed with demands to putting a stop to strong-arming the group by economic coercion and his release.
Addressing the protest outside the offices of Jang and The News at Murree Road in Rawalpindi, Secretary Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Nasir Zaidi said the purpose of arresting Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34-year-old case of purely business transaction was to mute the voice of the media. Resident Editor of Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid said Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Shakil-ur-Rahman always stood for the truth and was arrested in a fake and fabricated case after he refused to yield to the demands of the government.
Chief Reporter Rana Ghulam Qadir said Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Shakil-ur-Rahman never accepted dictation and termed him the prisoner of conscience for refusing to compromise on his principles. He said the country was in the grip of coronavirus crisis but the government was busy in fighting with the media instead. The Chairman Joint Action Committee and President Jang Workers Union, Nasir Chishti, said all the democratic forces of the country along with civil society, human rights activists and intellectuals were demanding the release of Editor-in-Chief. Secretary General RIUJ and senior correspondent of Geo News Asif Ali Bhatti said the struggle of the workers of the Geo and Jang group for the release of Editor-in-Chief will continue.
Senior correspondent of The News Asim Yasin, media worker of the Jang Group Munir Shah and Malik Nusrat and PML-N youth wing’s Obaid Abbassi also slammed the government for the uncalled-for campaign against the independent media, particularly against the Jang-Geo Group. Leader of PML-N Women Wing Ms Tahira Mushtaq said Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman always upheld independent editorial policies and highlighted the issues of the underdog. Mushtaq demanded Rahman’s early release.
In Karachi, the political parties, trade unions and youth organizations joined the demonstration by the employees of the Jang-Geo Group outside their offices.
Suhail Abidi, a Pakistan People’s Party leader, said that the Jang-Geo Group has always showed impartiality in publishing and broadcasting news and because of this independent editorial policy, its editor-in-chief was put behind the bars. He demanded the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the Jang-Geo editor-in-chief’s illegal detention and conduct a free and fair inquiry into the allegations against him. Referring to a protest against the closure of Geo News led by slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Abidi said that his party always supported an independent media. He said former president Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have also termed the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman an attack on the freedom of media. PML-Nawaz, Sindh, leader Malik Riaz Awan said that the attack on Jang-Geo Group was a conspiracy to control the media industry and suppress all voices of dissent. He, however, warned that the government will have to pay for its wrongdoings and announced transporters’ community support to the employees of the Jang-Geo Group for their rightful cause.
While crticising NAB, State Bank Union leader Malik Mumtaz Awan said despite passage of almost two months, the anti graft organisation is yet to prove any allegation against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He added that now all hopes for justice lie with the judiciary. Karachi Development Authority Union general secretary Ashfaq Chishti said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested because he refused to propagate the lies of the government. He said that the Jang-Geo Group had credibility among public and they trusted its news. Extending support to the Jang-Geo Action Committee’s protest campaign, he demanded release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Others who spoke at the demonstration included KDA Union’s Muhammad Anwar Sheikh, PPP’s Nisar Azizabadi, People Youth leader Adnan Shaikh, All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation secretary general Shakil Yamin Kanga, Javed Press Union’s Rana Yusuf, The News Union president Saeed Muhiddin Pasha and general secretary Dara Zafar.
Meanwhile, the workers of Jang Group in Peshawar continued their protest against the arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands, the protesters urged the government to release forthwith Mir Shakil and withdraw cases against him.
Speaking on the occasion, Peshawar Press Club President Syed Bukhar Shah said that Mir Shakil was detained in connection with a three-decade-old property case. Terming it an attack on the press, he said the media workers had always rendered sacrifices for a free press and would not accept such tactics.
Resident Editor Daily Jang Peshawar Arshad Aziz Malik said that the entire world and international organisations were monitoring the case of Mir Shakil which, he said, was earning a bad name for the country. Arshad deplored that Mir Shakil was being kept in illegal custody.
Sardar Imdad Ali Qazalbash observed that Mir Shakil was being punished for highlighting the truth. He asked the government to release Mir Shakil and withdraw cases against him.
In Multan, the workers of Geo News and dailies Jang, and The News continued their protest and condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and strong arming the Group by freezing the payments of advertisement arrears running in to billions of rupees.
Speaking on the occasion, Jang Multan Resident Editor Zafar Aheer lambasted the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said that the Group was the standard bearer of free press. He said that the government policies were creating unrest in the print and electronic journalism. The global journalist and media networks were strongly criticising the government’s increasingly dictatorial policies, he alleged. He demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Nadeem Shah, Nisar Awan, Chaudhry Masood, Rauf Maan, Kashif Raza, Mirza Ehtesham Baig and others were also among the protesters.