ISLAMABAD: The continuing countrywide protests by workers of the Geo-Jang Group along with journalist organizations, civil society and political workers for the release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo-Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman under arrest by the NAB for the last two months without a reference or a case, continued on Monday. The protesting journalists dubbed Rahman’s incarceration as part of the current government’s campaign to gag the freedom of expression and independent media’s dissenting voice and its right to question the government’s viewpoint as the only shade of truth. Rahman is facing incarceration for refusing to subdue his group’s editorial policy to that demanded by the government.
At the protesters’ camps, the workers of Geo-Jang Group also raised slogans for the release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Shakil-ur-Rahman and condemned the curbs on the freedom of media and independence of expression. They pledged to resist the government’s plot against the free press and to continue with their protest movement till his release. Addressing the protest outside the offices of Jang and The News at the Murree Road in Rawalpindi, speakers called for release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Shakil-ur-Rahman and termed the NAB laws as black, enacted to strong arm those who stand up and oppose the government. They also pledged to continue their protest till Rahman is released unconditionally. Secretary General Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Nasir Zaidi said the struggle of the journalists and workers of the Geo and Jang Group will succeed and Editor-in-Chief will be released soon.
Editor Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid appealed to the Chief Justice Supreme Court to take notice of long unlawful arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir said the “Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group will never bow down before the illegal demands of the government,” he said,
Secretary General RIUJ and senior correspondent of the Geo News Asif Ali Bhatti, media workers Amjad Abbassi, Munir Shah, Nusrat Malik and others demanded honourable release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group and pledged not to give up their protests till his release.
In Karachi, the Jang-Geo protesters were joined at their camp by a large cross-section of political workers, trade unionists, media and journalist organisation to express solidarity. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and Rajput Council of Pakistan President Rana Muhammad Ehsan said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was fighting for the right to information and is the standard bearer of truth in the whole country and we like the rest of the country are thankful to him for his services to the independent media. Condemning the malicious campaign against the Jang-Geo Group, Ehsan said that Prime Minister Imran should be indebted to the coronavirus as it brought an extension to his government whose days were already numbered. He said that his party stands with the journalists and support free press because they are necessary for a democratic society.
PML-N leader Rana Tariq said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman spoke of the government’s incompetency and its inclination to flout the law and Constitution to achieve its nefarious designs. He said that the government campaign to pressure Jang-Geo Group have backfired. He demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and referred to the global concerns over his attack, which has been symbolised as an attack on the media freedom in Pakistan.
The Chairman Karachi Hockey Association ( KHA) and National Bank Officers Association Gulfaraz Khan said that independent media was a reflection of a democratic society and strong and independent institutions. But on the contrary, he said the independent media is on the receiving end ever since this government was formed. KHA’s senior vice-president Dr Majid said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was a staunch advocate of truth and right and he should be released and allow him to contest the allegations against him.
KHA Secretary Haider Hussain said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was an attack on the independent media. He demanded the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo-moto action over it and ensure a free and fair conclusion of this case. Others who spoke to the demonstration included All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation’s Secretary General Shakil Yamin Kanga, Javed Press Union’s general secretary Rana Yusuf and The News Employees Union’s general secretary Dara Zafar.
In Lahore, the Jang-Geo workers and representatives of the civil society and political entities protesting against the illegal arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief demanded the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of this illegal arrest. The speakers condemned the government for continuing intimidation of independent media houses by choking their revenue streams and dictating their editorial policies. They said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is paying the price for refusing to fire news anchors and reporters as being dictated by the PTI government and resisting financial pressures to toe the dotted line. The speakers demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and pledged to continue their struggle for his unconditional release and for the freedom and independence of expression and thought. The speakers included Editor Jang Group Shaheen Qureshi, Spokesman PPP Lahore Waheed Alamgir, Abdullah Malik, Chief Reporter Jang Lahore Maqsood Butt, Khizar Hayat Gondal, Zaheer Anjum, Sher Ali and Asif Mahmood Butt.
In Multan, the Punjab Chemist Association joined the two-month-long campaign against the unlawful arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by the workers of the dailies The News, Jang and Geo News and demanded his immediate release. A large number of traders from the Multan Medicine Market expressed solidarity with the protesting journalists.
Addressing the media workers, divisional president, the Punjab Chemist Association, Akhtar Butt strongly criticised the government’s coercive practices against the Jang Group. He said that it was surprising that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was held in an undisputed 34-year old business transaction but it does prove the NAB-government axis against free media, opposition and those rivaling the PTI top leadership.
Butt said that the government was trying to curb the free press in the country, which was not a good omen for democracy. He also criticised the suspension of Jang Group advertisements and payment of its arrears running into billions to force it to
humble before the government.
Traders’ representative Faisal Rahman said that the free press could help the government rescue the public from problems.
In Peshawar, the workers of the Jang-Geo Group continued their 60th day of protest with speeches and by displaying banners and raising slogans for an early and unconditional release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and withdrawal of fabricated cases against him.
The Jamiat Ahle Hadith leader, Dr Zakir Shah, visited the camp to express solidarity with the protesting workers of the Jang Group. He condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, saying he was arrested without a reference or a case. Terming his arrest as illegal and an injustice to the biggest media group, Dr Shah said that the rulers wanted to suppress the voice of the independent media group. He said if the rulers were interested in accountability of the corrupt, they should hold investigations into the mega scandals, including the Bus Rapid Transit, Malam Jabba land scam and the sugar and flour crises.
Dr Zakir Shah demanded the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and withdrawal of cases against him. He extended his party’s support to the Jang Group, saying they would support the media at every forum. Peshawar Press Club President Syed Bukhar Shah also condemned the detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who had been behind bars for the last 60 days. He said the rulers wanted to stifle the voice of the independent media group, but they would be unable to do so.
Khyber Union of Journalists’ former president Nisar Mehmud also condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil in a 34-year old property case, saying these pressure tactics could not muzzle their urge to tell the truth.