Tuesday October 19, 2021

Continued detention

June 05, 2020

After Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was not produced before the accountability court in Lahore by NAB, his remand to NAB was extended for another 14 days. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has already been in detention for more than 83 days. And now he will spend even more days in detention for a case that is flimsy at its best. Journalists in Pakistan, including the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, have been staging demonstrations demanding his release which by all means has been seen as bizarre since it concerns a case that dates back 34 years, there have been no charges made and even the investigation process has not been completed. The sense then that this is more a case related to press freedom does not seem far-fetched. International media watchdog bodies including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders have all spoken out against his arrest. The matter was also brought up during reports published on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

The manner in which the matter is being treated simply highlights the lack of press freedom in Pakistan, and the government’s claims that the Pakistani press is amongst the most free in the world ring hollow. Not a shred of evidence has been produced in the Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman case. There have also been orders from courts against detention by NAB without evidence. Yet Mir Shakil remains behind bars and the free media has received a resounding blow from which it struggles to recover.

Prompt action in this matter is called for. A fair trial is one of the basic legal requirements that must be fulfilled in all cases, especially when it involves the right to freedom of expression. When the country is facing an epidemic, there is a need to focus more on the challenges that have engulfed Pakistan. We need dynamic and vibrant media to ensure a smooth flow of information across the country. The government and NAB must realize that ensuring freedom of expression is a hallmark of modern societies all over the world. That cannot be ensured when you arrest the head of the largest media group in the country in a case that would be found wanting any given day.