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June 1, 2020

Countrywide protests against illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman continue

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June 1, 2020

LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Senior journalists, civil society leaders, office- bearers of media unions and trade union bodies continued condemning what they called the NAB-Niazi nexus under which they had arrested Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a politically-motivated case for the last 81 days.

Journalists in Lahore staged a protest outside the Jang offices on Sunday at the protest camp 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.

They held a demo despite the drizzle and shouted slogans against the PTI government. They expressed sorrow that those claiming to make Pakistan a Madina-like state have incarcerated Mir Shakilur Rahman even in Ramazan despite no progress neither in investigations into the 34 years old property exchange charges against him nor any formal case registered.

They demanded immediate release of Mir Shakilur Rahman and warned that PTI government could not continue its dictatorial policies to curb freedom of expression and force economic murder of media workers for long. They threatened to launch anti-government movement against the government across the country if he was not released.

Those who joined the protest camp included Jang’s Group Editor Shaheen Qureshi, Jang Workers Union Secretary General Farooq Malik, civil society leader Abdullah Malik, Comrade Zawwar Hussain Bukhari, Zaheer Anjum, Maqsood Butt, Sher Ali Khalti, Maulana Muhammad Asim, Awais Qarni, Khizar Hayat Gondal, Naseem Qureshi, Aziz Sheikh, Shahid Aziz, Munawwar Hussain and others.

Shaheen Qureshi termed the PTI government fascist and the worst kind of authoritarian regime that was bent upon gagging the voice of independent media to protect its own corruption and maladministration from reaching public.

He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was the first casualty of the PTI government’s stifling media policy, 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 reduced to size with a low number of employees. 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.

He demanded the government release the withheld Rs6 billion arrears of media houses immediately so that media workers could be paid their salaries and dues under tough times. He said the government had acknowledged Rs3 billion arrears so far but still not released that amount despite making promises. He warned that Pakistan was already placed in the grey list regarding the freedoms in the country by the FATF.

Maqsood Butt said media cannot work for the truth without freedom, as it played the role of watchdog for the society and country. He noted that such victimisations were forced by dictators like Gen Ayub Khan, Gen Ziaul Haq, Gen Pervez Musharraf, in the past, and now media workers were being victimised by the government.

Sher Ali Khalti said Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is symbol of freedom of expression and this struggle is not only for his release but also for the freedom of media. He warned that this campaign would continue against the puppet rulers even after his release since it was a conspiracy against the journalists and the freedom of expression. He said everybody in the country who struggled for the freedom of expression was Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He warned that if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was not released immediately, then journalists would stage protests outside the National Assembly, Punjab Assembly and all major cities of the country.

Zaheer Anjum said, “Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be released as his arrest was a symbolic move to usurp media freedom. Already the results were coming out and the arrest was leading towards the crumbling of media itself after the gagging of freedom of expression, which was evident from the closure of noted news channels recently,” he said. He said the journalists’ would continue struggle for justice and release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, adding that when the journalists wage struggle for freedom of expression they always succeeded and many dictators in the past had to bite the dust.

Meanwhile, MPA Ali Haidar Gilani condemned the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his immediate release.

MPA Ali Haidar Gilani visited the protest camp of the Jang Group workers set up here on Sunday and expressed solidarity with the workers.

The MPA said that the government was handling free press roughly, which was very dangerous to the environment of free media in the country. The government’s policies against free press had defaced the country’s image abroad and weakening the public’s trust in the democracy, he added.

He said that the democracy could not survive without free media and true democracy. Qaumi Tajir Ittehad general secretary Siddiq Thaim, Ghulam Qasim Aheer and others also visited the protest camp and expressed solidarity with the Jang Group and demanded release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

in Toba Tek Singh, members and office-bearers of the Kamalia Press Club staged a demonstration against the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Speaking on the occasion, senior journalists Rana Amjad, Amjad Saeed, Arif Ghias, Nadim Qamar and others said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was being victimised by involving him in a 34-year-old land case. They demanded his immediate release.

In Peshawar, the workers of Jang/Geo Group continued protest against the arrest of their Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on Sunday.

Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands, the protesters urged the government to release Mir Shakil and withdraw cases against him. The protesters chanted slogans against the government and the NAB for victimising opponents and suppressing voice of the independent media.

Speaking on the occasion, Resident Editor Daily Jang Peshawar Arshad Aziz Malik criticised the government for detaining Mir Shakil in a 34 years old property case only to pressure him but the rulers would not succeed in their designs.

He asked the government to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and withdraw cases against him. The detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had created problems for thousands of workers, he said, adding that the Jang Group would continue highlighting the truth and the journalists could not be prevented from telling the truth through such tactics.