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July 10, 2020

Persecution of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman: Jang-Geo Group protesters slam miscarriage of justice

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July 10, 2020

KARACHI/LAHORE/RAWALPINDI/PESHAWAR: The countrywide protest by the workers of the Jang-Geo Group against the unjustified and illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on Thursday said though they have been disappointed by the denial of bail but their morale was high and they would continue to agitate for his release and deterioration of media environment under the current dispensation.

The protesters said the leading lawyers of the country have also termed the case against Editor-in-Chief as baseless and added the 34-year-old property case does not fall under the NAB law but reflects malafide intention to gag an independent and free media resisting government's attempts to micromanage the editorial policies.

On Thursday once again, the group's workers were joined in a show of solidarity by representatives of civil society and political workers who deplored denial of justice to Mir Shakil and dubbed it as a question mark on the judicial system.

Addressing the protesters near daily Jang offices in Rawalpindi, Secretary General Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Nasir Zaidi said the journalists and media workers will continue their struggle for the freedom of media.

He said all the renowned layers of the country have declared the case against Rahman as baseless and expressed disappointment on denial of bail. Chairman Joint Action Committee of the Workers of Geo and Jang Group and President Jang Workers Union Rawalpindi Nasir Chisti said the lawyers believe the 34-year-old case had no evidence and implicating the Editor-in-Chief in such a fabricated case was based on malafide to curb the freedom of speech.

Member Editorial Committee Jang Rawalpindi Abbas Alam said the civil society and political workers have also declared the case as a manifestation of anti-graft watchdog’s high-handedness and propensity to target government's critics. Media workers of Jang Group Kamal Shah, Amjad Ali Abbassi, Munir Shah, Malik Nusrat, Laeeq Shaukat demanded honourable release of Editor-in-Chief and withdrawal of cases against him.

Also in Karachi, the Pakistan People's Youth leader Farid Memon said that soon karma will come to haunt Prime Minister Imran Khan who will be arrested by the same National Accountability Bureau being used by him against his political rivals and independent media. Memon said instead of eliminating poverty, the federal government was killing the poor through its disastrous economic policies. He remarked that the government was piling pressure on the Jang-Geo Group to humble Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to compromise over his independent editorial policies through harassment. He demanded Rahman's forthwith release and asked the government to stop manipulating the free media.

In Multan, the activists of Multan Union of Journalists and Jang-Geo Group workers condemned the illegal detention of Mir Shakil and demanded his immediate release.

They were led by President Multan Union of Journalists (MUJ) Shakil Baloch and Resident Editor, Jang Multan, Zafar Aheer, who staged a demonstration on the Nusrat Road. They were carrying banners and placards and raised slogans against the victimisation of the group's Editor-in-Chief. Speaking on the occasion, MUJ President Shakil Baloch deplored that rapid decline is being witnessed in media freedom under the PTI government.

The Jang-Geo Group workers said that the PTI-led coalition government had made several attempts to strong arm the free media to hide their policy failures. They proposed formation of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority by merging the PEMRA and the Pakistan Press Council.

Likewise in Peshawar, the workers of the Jang-Geo Group continued their protest against the illegal detention of their Editor-in-Chief and sought his release forthwith. They were carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans to highlight their demands. The protesters chanted slogans against the government and the National Accountability Bureau. They deplored that the head of the biggest media group of the country is under detention since March 12 in a fabricated case. They said legal experts believe Mir Shakil's detention was illegal and unconstitutional. The speakers, including Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali, Shah Zaman, Imdad Ali Qazalbash and others, said their Editor-In-Chief would not succumb to the pressure by the rulers and pledged to continue to perform their duty of reporting the truth come what may.

In Lahore, a large number of media workers and civil society activists pledged to continue their struggle till Rahman was honourably released and the fabricated case withdrawn.

The Jang-Geo-The News workers and human rights activists gathered near the Jang offices on Davis Road. It is noteworthy that it has been almost four months since Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested in what is being largely viewed by lawyers, journalists and civil society as a coercive tactic to victimise him and the Group. They warned the government to stop its dictatorial and fascist behaviour of curbing media freedom and hoped justice would be done with Rahman by the courts. The key speakers who addressed the demonstration included renowned civil society activist Abdullah Malik, Jang’s Group Editor Shaheen Qureshi, Maqsood Butt, Shahab Ansari, Zaheer Anjum, Awais Qarni, members of Jang Workers Union Mohammad Farooq, Munawar Hussain, Mohammad Ali, Afzal Abbas, Akmal Bhatti and others.