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July 7, 2020

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest: Countrywide protests condemn tyrannical policies

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July 7, 2020

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: The countrywide protest by workers of Geo and Jang Group entered the 115th day against the unjustified and illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the wider and draconian curbs against independent media on Monday.

The protesters thanked the Pakistan Bar Council for its statement condemning the unjust arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and its leaders' announcement to attend the hearings of Rahman's bail petition in the Lahore High Court to express solidarity with the journalists. Terming free press as imperative for democracy, they decried it has been replaced with tyranny with low tolerance for truth and dissent.

At the protesters camp, a large number of workers at the call of Geo News and Jang Group Joint Action Committee along with journalist organizations, representatives of civil society and political workers staged a demonstration on the 115th day since the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman near the Jang Building in Rawalpindi and appealed to Chief Justice to take notice of delay in justice for him. They said the protests against the persecution of the editor-in-chief for his independent editorial policies and refusal to budge from those, are not only limited countrywide but have also drawn international attention and condemnation. They called for unconditional and honourable release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and withdrawal of the false and fabricated cases lodged against him. They also raised slogans and carried placards demanding his release and condemned the government’s coercion of the free and independent media and the Geo and Jang Group.

Secretary General Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Nasir Zaidi, Chairman Joint Action Committee of Workers of Geo and Jang Group Nasir Chisti, Chairman Editorial Committee Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid, Magazine Editor Jang Rawalpindi Farooq Aqdas, Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir, Rahat Munir, Amjad Ali Abbassi, Malik Nusrat, Munir Shah, Naseerul Haq, Azhar Sultan, Kaleem Shamim and other workers of the Geo and Jang Group addressing the protest said the workers of the Group stand united with Rahman. They pledged to foil the conspiracies against the group. They said the Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, is leading the movement for the freedom of media in the country and the present rulers like the past dictators would fail to humble him to carry their version of the sanctioned truth. They said the government has failed to bring the independent media under control but have made it it clear to the country’s media houses that they would be next in line if they do not toe the official line. They expressed the hope that the Editor-in-Chief will be released soon and will lead the movement for the freedom of media.

In Karachi, the former Pakistan People’s Party MNA Aziz Memon remarked that the federal government wanted to take over the Jang-Geo Group by victimizing its editor-in-chief. Memon, who is also a leader of the All Pakistan Memon Federation, said that the whole business community stood by Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and will not let the government’s malicious campaign succeed. He said that the Jang-Geo Group is the top media group of the country, which has a worldwide readership and viewership. He added that the group has a long history of serving Pakistan’s interests since its inception.

He said that the businessmen were considering moving their businesses abroad because of the policies of the government that had nearly destroyed the industries instead of uplifting them as promised before election. Memon said that in such times when the Jang-Geo Group reflected the public opinion through its news and bold editorials, the government started a vengeful campaign against it to hide the realities from the larger public. He said the government is bent on killing dissent in the country by making things tough for the independent media . He warned the government, that the business community, politicians, rights activists, students and trade unionists are united with the Jang-Geo Action Committee and demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and lifting of curbs against Jang Geo Group.

Likewise in Peshawar, the workers of Jang-Geo Group continued the protest against the arrest of the Editor-in-Chief. Carrying banners and placards, they chanted slogans against the government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Former MPA and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) vice-president Dr Faiza Rashid visited the camp along with her supporters and office-bearers. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Faiza Rashid said they do not accept the discriminatory accountability by the prime minister and his government. She deplored that the selected ruler have now begun to strangulate the media, which had made him a leader. Dr Rashid said the present rulers had left behind dictators in their anti-media policy. She demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil and withdrawal of cases against him. Senior journalists including Arshad Aziz Malik, Bureau Chief Geo News Shakeel Farman Ali and others also condemned the continued detention of Mir Shakil and demanded his immediate release and withdrawal of cases against him.

Also in Mingora, Swat, the journalists staged a protest against the illegal detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman at the Swat Press Club and expressed solidarity with him. Speaking on the occasion, President of the Swat Union of Journalists and others said that democracy could not sustain without a free media, and added that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was fighting for the freedom of the independent media. “He is the icon of media freedom who has braved the worst persecution against the group and his person.

His illegal detention is aimed at silencing those voices struggling for free and fair media,” said Geo’s Mahboob Ali. “It is the right time to raise voice for the honourable release of the Editor-in-Chief as the fascist government is busy suppressing the free and independent voices,” said Ghulam Farooq, Chief organizer, Swat Press Club.

The NAB is being used as a tool to pressurize Rahman to subdue him to quit his independent editorial policies, said Shahzad Alam, President of the Swat Press Club. “But it will never succeed to meet these goals,” he said. Others who spoke on this the occasion included senior journalists, Sheraz Khan, Subhaullah, Haider Ali Jan, Akhtar Gul and Fazal Rahim Khan.