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May 14, 2020

Day of Remembrance against victimisation of journalists: Jang/Geo workers protest against govt’s unceasing intimidation

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May 14, 2020

RAWALPINDI/Lahore/PESHAWAR/Karachi: The Geo-Jang workers protesting against the government’s unceasing intimidation and coercion to silence their media house by a long campaign ending in the unwarranted and illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was reinvigorated on May 13 (Wednesday) observed countrywide as the Day of Remembrance for the four journalists publicly whipped and given imprisonments for defying Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law regime’s ruthless media censorship.

Like then as today it was all about controlling the perception and the group workers’ pledged to continue resisting the government’s designs against the freedom of press, safeguarding rights of media workers and the release of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

In Rawalpindi’s protest camp outside the offices of the Jang and The News at the Murree Road, the Geo-Jang Group workers along with the civil society and political workers resolved to continue the struggle for the release of Editor-in-Chief, who was in illegal custody for the last 62 days.

They criticized the NAB-government axis to suppress the dissenting voices including the free media and the opposition.

Secretary General PFUJ Nasir Zaidi was one of the four journalist victims who were sentenced to receive lashes during Zia’s dictatorship, said Shakil-ur-Rahman has now turned into the voice of freedom of the media and has refused to bow down despite two-month-long custody. Rahman will be long remembered for his struggle for media freedom, he said.

He said the names of those journalists who were victimized during the ‘80s dictatorship were fresh in the minds and hearts of the people as “champions of liberty” but the dictators who usurped peoples’ rights have long been relegated to the dustbin of history.

Editor Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid appealed to the higher judiciary to take notice of illegal arrest of Shakil-ur-Rahman .

Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir, Chairman Joint Action Committee and President Jang Workers Union Nasir Chishti, media workers of Jang Group Munir Shah, Malik Nusrat, Amjad Abbassi said the trumped up charges against the Editor-in-Chief will be dismissed in the first judicial hearing.

In Karachi, the Jang-Geo Action Committee protest continued in Karachi on Wednesday as leaders from political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations converged to express solidarity with the Jang-Geo Group’s incarcerated editor-in-chief and to denounce the draconian curbs by the federal government on the independent media.

Speaking to the demonstration, Pakistan People's Party leader Sardar Nazakat said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government is working on its agenda to eliminate the truth and dissent from the society and for this it was attacking independent media houses and journalists.

Referring to the services of the Jang-Geo Group in the field of journalism, Nazakat said that Mir Shakil carried forward the pre-Partition vision and mission of his father Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman and that he was being persecuted. He said that it was the first co-called democratic government in the history of the country which could not brace criticism and got engaged in personal vendetta. He demanded that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be released from the prison immediately and the government must tender an apology to him for causing him severe damages.

The All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation secretary general Shakil Yamin Kanga said that 42 years ago, on this day -- May 13 – journalists were publicly whipped and detained by the-then dictator General Ziaul Haq. He said that this day is still commemorated as black day in the history of journalism. He said that Rahman’s detention had added another black chapter in the history and ironically this happened in a government which called itself democratic.

Pointing out the illegalities in the arrest and detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Javed Qureshi said that it was incomprehensible how could he be arrested in a 34-year-old private transaction matter which speaks volumes about the government’s designs to control the independent media. He demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil and commented that no matter how difficult the path may become, independent media will survive because those who wanted to see the country flourish and progress were standing with the Jang-Geo Group.

Others who spoke to the demonstration included PPP leaders Sheraz Saleh Tanoli and Sardar Zulfiqar Ali, Javed Press Union’s general secretary Rana Yusuf, The News Union’s president Saeed Muhiuddin Pasha and general secretary Dara Zafar.

In Peshawar, the media workers of the Jang Group continued the protest on Wednesday against the arrest of their Editor-in-Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands, they demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil and withdrawal of cases instituted against him.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) deputy general secretary and former provincial minister Amanullah Haqqani joined the camp to express solidarity with the Jang Group. He condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil and termed it an attack by the government on the free press. Criticising the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), he said it had become a tool by the government to go after its opponents. Haqqani demanded release of Mir Shakil forthwith and withdrawal of cases against him.

Arshad Aziz Malik, Resident Editor of the Jang, termed the arrest of Mir Shakil as victimisation and an attack on the free press which the journalists would not tolerate. He said the journalists were lashed during the martial law regime of General Ziaul Haq but the media workers never bowed down to the brutal force.

In Multan, the workers of dailies Jang, The News and Geo News observed protest against the arrest of their Editor-in-Chief and demanded his release.

Lawyers along with traders’ representatives joined the protest and expressed solidarity with the Jang-Geo Group.

Senior lawyer Syed Zia Haider Zaidi, Chaudhry Khalid, Assistant Attorney Abid Hussain Bhutta, Anjuman Tajran president Chaudhry Riaz Shaheen and others visited the camp.

Speaking on the occasion, Syed Zia Haider said that the continued detention was a part of the government efforts to remove the Geo Network from the screen and stop the circulation of The News and Jang newspapers. He said that the NAB had become a controversial institution. He demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Senior journalists, civil society leaders, office-bearers of media unions and trade union bodies in Lahore regretted that those claiming to make Pakistan a Madina-like state have incarcerated Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a politically-motivated case for the last 62 days and he was kept detained even in the holy month of Ramazan despite that there was no progress either in investigations into the 35-year-old property exchange charges against him nor any formal case was registered.

They were addressing the protest camp of the workers of Jang, Geo and The News employees set up on the call of Joint Action Committee and Jang Employees Union for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman outside the offices of Jang Wednesday.

They demanded the immediate release of MSR and warned that PTI government could not continue its dictatorial policies by curbing freedom of expression and forcing economic murder of media workers for long.

Those who expressed solidarity at the protest camp with the Jang Group employees included Group Editor Shaheen Qureshi, civil society leader advocate Abdullah Malik, Comrade Zawwar Hussain Bukhari, Zaheer Anjum, Geo Lahore Bureau chief Raees Ansari, office-bearers of Jang Employees Union and others.

Shaheen Qureshi termed the PTI government fascist and worst kind of authoritarian regime that was bent upon gagging the voice of independent media. He warned that Mir Shakil-ur- Rahman was the first casualty in PTI government’s stifling media, while other owners of the media houses were the next target. He said gagging the voice of media would become an easy target for the ruling elite and establishment when few top-ranking media houses would either be closed down or badly cut to size with a little number of employees left. He said media owners must realise that unless they empower their workers and professional journalists, their own strength would be seriously curtailed, and they would become an easy prey for the establishment and ruling elite, adding that the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should serve as eye-opener for all media owners.

Zaheer Anjum said media cannot work for the truth without freedom, as it played the role of watchdog for the society.

Comrade Zawwar Hussain said fake and fabricated case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be withdrawn and he should be released.