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July 11, 2020

Protesters slam cases, detention: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman paying price for free journalism

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July 11, 2020

KARACHI/LAHORE/RAWALPINDI/PESHAWAR: The countrywide protest by the workers of Geo-Jang Group along with journalist organizations and political workers continued against the unjustified and illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for the last 119 days and condemned the widening conspiracy to involve members of his family in the fake and fabricated case, terming it shameful. They said the independent press has always been the bete noire of inept leaders and their governments who have nothing to deliver to the people and this is true in the case of Mir Shakil who has become a target of the rulers' wrath.

The protesters chanted slogans and carried placards against the unjustified and illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his immediate release. While addressing the protesters at the protest camp in front of Jang Building Rawalpindi, Secretary General PFUJ Nasir Zaidi, Chairman Joint Action Committee of workers of Geo and Jang Nasir Chisti, Chairman Editorial Committee Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid, Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir, PML-N leader of Rawalpindi Imtiaz Taji and other workers of Jang and The News condemned the conspiracy of involving the family of Editor-in-Chief in the fake and fabricated case. They termed it a large pattern of harrassment and victimisation against the group and the Rahman family. They pledged that the workers will foil all the conspiracies against the group, the Editor-in-Chief and his family and demanded his immediate release and withdrawal of cases.

In Karachi, Pakistan People’s Party leader Waqar Mehdi told Imran Khan that he was not the prime minister of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf but of the entire country and he should act accordingly. Mehdi condemned Rahman’s detention and called it an attack on the freedom of press. He said that the PPP stood by with the Jang-Geo Group and demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil and withdrawal of cases. He said the Jang-Geo Group and Rahman are paying the price for not letting the government strong arm their editorial policies and said the writing on the wall cannot no more be hidden. Mehdi said instead of uniting the country, Khan was bent on compounding the peoples’ problems with rising inflation and unemployment. He said the NAB and other institutions should refrain from becoming party to Imran’s personal vendetta against Mir Shakil.

In Lahore, the media workers including senior journalists continued their protest on the Davis Road against the illegal detention of Mir Shakil and demanded his immediate release. Those who spoke on the occasion included senior journalists Maqsood Butt, Shahab Ansari, Zaheer Anjum, Asif Bajwa, Awais Qarni, veteran journalist Azhar Munir and Muhammad Farooq Awan while Shafiq Ahmed, Khalid Khattak, Shahid Aziz and many others were also present on the occasion. Maqsood Butt said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was under detention for four months under a fabricated reference which does not even fall under the NAB jurisdiction. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was a symbol of resistance and was fighting for the freedom of press in the country. He said the Editor-in-Chief was not just the owner of media house but is the torch-bearer of media freedom. He further said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman did not do the government bidding of stopping critical news reports and firing news anchors and reporters as demanded by the government and is being subjected to witch-hunt. He urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice on the baseless case against him. He said in every democratic society, the media acts as a watchdog but in our case dissent is not being tolerated. Here the democracy has been replaced by tyranny, he said. Shahab Ansari said no society could progress without justice and expressed the hope superior courts will provide justice to Mir Shakil. Veteran journalist Azhar Munir recited some poetic masterpieces to highlight the increasing curbs on media freedom in Pakistan.

Similarly in Peshawar, the media workers of the Jang-Geo Group continued their protest against the unlawful arrest of group’s Editor-in-Chief. Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans demanding to remove curbs against free media and Rahman’s release, they demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil and withdrawal of cases against him. The participants deplored that the Lahore High Court had rejected the bail application of Mir Shakil. They quoted constitutional experts who have said the National Accountability Bureau has no justification to detain a citizen in a private, property case but on the contrary Mir Shakil is under arrest for the last 119 days. He said since they have failed to break MSR, they are now planning to unleash further harassment and victimisation by involving the entire Rahman family in the fabricated case. They appealed to the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of the ongoing injustices with the editor-in-chief of the largest media group of the country. The speakers included senior journalists Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali, Shah Zaman, Imdad Ali Qazalbash and others observed that the prolonged detention of Mir Shakil had created unrest and disappointment among the workers.

They said the rulers were living in a fool’s paradise if they thought they could suppress the voice of the independent media through coercive tactics. The speakers resolved to continue performing their duty to expose corruption, lack of governance and bad policies that have unleashed multiple crises for the people of Pakistan. They said they had rendered sacrifices in the past too and would do so in the future as well. The speakers pledged to continue the protest till the acceptance of their demands.