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July 23, 2020

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest: Jang-Geo workers’ protest continues

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July 23, 2020

KARACHI/LAHORE/PESHAWAR/RAWALPINDI: The workers of the Jang-Geo Group continued their countrywide protests against the over four-month-long incarceration of its Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman over a case fabricated by the govt-NAB nexus to coerce and harass the independent media and demanded his honourable release and withdrawal of the case. On Wednesday, the workers were joined in solidarity by trade unionists, media and journalist organisations and a cross-section of the civil society.

They were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans, seeking his release and condemning the government for its harassing actions to choke the financial streams of the independent press to coerce it into only publishing official sanctified truth.

In Karachi, noted trade union leaders of Pakistan Railways took part in the continued protest by the Jang-Geo Group workers against the illegal and unjust arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo-Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his immediate release.

A delegation of Railway Workers Union, led by central vice-president Junaid Awan, visited the protest camp organized by the Jang-Geo Joint Action Committee outside the Jang Building in the Azadi Street to demand the government to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and withdraw the fabricated cases against him. Addressing the Group's workers, Awan said that it is ironic that the owner of the largest media group of the country has been detained for more than four months in a 34-year-old property transaction case. He said that Imran Khan with his bad governance has led to commodity shortages and high inflation, rendering large scale unemployment. Farhan Ilyas, the Association of Camera Journalists secretary-general, said that the Jang-Geo Group represents the voice of 220 million people.

The All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation's secretary-general Shakil Yamin Kanga said the NAB, due to its discriminatory actions and becoming an instrument of government's witch-hunting, should be abolished by the Supreme Court. Senior journalist Matiullah Jan was picked up in Islamabad and released only after a strong countrywide protest from the media bodies across the country. “Everyone knows who is behind his kidnapping." He said since the independent journalism portrays realities confronting the larger public and in doing so, it has always become the bete noire of the government and its various tentacles and that is the cardinal sin of Jang and the Jang-Geo Group's Editor in Chief. The News Employees Union's president general secretary Dara Zafar, Javed Press Union's general secretary Rana Yusuf also spoke to the participants of the camp and called for early release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Similarly, in Peshawar, the media workers renewed the call for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as they continued the protest against his illegal detention.

The speakers, including senior journalist Arshad Aziz Malik, Geo's Bureau Chief Shakeel Farman, Imdad Ali Qazalbash and others, lamented that their requests for fair trial and justice to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman were falling on deaf ears. The protesters appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s Chief Justice to take notice of the injustice to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Criticising the government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the speakers alleged that the government was trying to control the independent media and the opposition through pressure tactics. Quoting the constitutional experts, they said the NAB had no justification to detain a citizen in a 34-year-old property case. They said the so-called champions of 'change and reforms' have miserably failed to move against those involved in mega corruption scandals.

Also in Lahore, the media workers of Jang-Geo workers, media and journalist organisations continued their protest against the unlawful detention of Mir Shakil and demanded his immediate and honourable release. They had gathered at the protest camp near the Jang offices on the Davis Road. Displaying placards and banners, they raised slogans for his release and expressed solidarity with him and condemned the NAB-Niazi nexus.

Addressing the demonstrators, Shaheen Qureshi said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a torchbearer of freedom of expression and a true leader of journalism in Pakistan who is under unlawful detention for over 130 days. He said the political powers of the country, including political parties and activists, are expressing concerns over the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for victimizing those opposing the inept government's policies.

Zaheer Anjum said the recent Supreme Court verdict in the Paragon City case exposed the conduct of NAB. He said every political worker and every political party believes that the NAB law is in fact a draconian law and added the same could be abolished by political parties.

In Rawalpindi, a demonstration of journalists and workers of the Geo and Jang Group continued their protest against the illegal and unjustified arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and sustained efforts of the government to muzzle the freedom of expression and independent media. The protesters chanted slogans for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and against the efforts to silence the free voices of the media.

The protesters including Chairman Joint Action Committee of the workers of Geo and Jang Group and President Jang workers Union Nasir Chisti, Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir, Secretary General RIUJ and senior correspondent Geo News Asif Ali Bhatti, Rahat Munir Kamal Shahi, Amjad Ali Abbassi, Nusrat Malik, Munir Shah, Aslam Butt and workers of Jang and The News.

Addressing the protest, they said first they arrested Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and now they were harassing and abducting journalists. They said the journalists will not accept censorship.