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August 4, 2020

Protest against illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman continues

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August 4, 2020

LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Senior journalists, civil society leaders, office-bearers of media unions and trade union of Jang Group have condemned NAB-Niazi nexus which had detained Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a politically-motivated case for the last 143 days without any progress in investigations.

They were staging demonstration on 119th consecutive day outside the Jang Offices Monday at the protest camp of Jang, Geo and The News employees set up for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

The protesters regretted that those claiming to make Pakistan a Madina-like State have incarcerated Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman just for victimisation despite that there was no progress either in investigations into the property exchange charges against him nor any formalcase registered.

They demanded the Chief Justice of Pakistan for taking a suo motu notice against the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman which was a direct attack on the freedom of expression and liberty of media. They vowed to continue struggle till the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and warned the Imran-led PTI government to refrain from further victimisation of editor-in-chief and curbing media freedom. They demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman and warned that any direct action could be taken against the government to stop it from dictatorial policies for curbing freedom of expression and forcing economic murder of media workers. They threatened to launch anti-government movement across the country if he was not released.

Those who joined the protest camp included Jang’s Group Editor Shaheen Qureshi, Jang Workers Union Secretary General Farooq Malik, Pakistan Times News Editor Zaheer Anjum, The News deputy chief reporter Asim Hussain, Amir Taimur Malik, Awais Qarni, Sher Ali Khalti, Muhammad Shafiq, Aziz Sheikh, Munawwar Hussain, Muhammad Naeem, M. Nawaz, Muhammad Wajed, Wahab Khanzada, Akmal Bhatti, Hafiz Asad, Mohammad Ali and Afzal Abbas.

Shaheen Qureshi termed the PTI government the worst kind of fascist and authoritarian regime that was bent upon gagging the voice of independent media to prevent exposure of its own corruption and bad governance. He warned that Mir Shakil-ur- Rahman was the first casualty of the PTI government’s stifling media policy, while other owners of the media houses were the next target. He said gagging the voice of media would become an easy target for the ruling elite and establishment when few top-ranking media houses would either be closed down or badly reduced to size with a little number of employees left. He said media owners must realise that unless they empower their workers and professional journalists their own strength would be seriously curtailed, and they would become an easy prey for the establishment and ruling elite, adding that the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should serve as an eye-opener for all media houses owners. Zaheer Anjum said media cannot work for the truth without freedom, as it played the role of watchdog for the society and country. He noted that such victimisations were forced by dictators like Gen Ayub Khan, Gen Ziaul Haq, Gen Pervez Musharraf, in the past, and now media workers were being victimised by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was selected by establishment to curb media. He said the whole world knew the truth that Imran Khan was selected in sham elections and was now proving that he was not the representative of the masses.

Sher Ali Khalti said the fake case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be withdrawn and he should be released. He warned that if he was not freed then the protest would increase creating more problems for the government. He said the government instead of tackling the coronavirus and providing relief to the starving people under lockdown, was busy in curbing the voice of media and victimising the media houses owners. He said Jang Group always reported the truth, adding the PTI government was using all pressure tactics to subdue the press and Jang Group was bearing the brunt being the largest media house in the country.

Farooq Malik said Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is symbol of freedom of expression and this struggle is not only for his release but also for the freedom of media.

Awais Qarni said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was not only a conspiracy against Jang Group but also the first step to mute all the voices of the independent media. He said the journalists staging hunger strikes have proved that they would win this battle also as they had achieved success in the past against the military dictators. Muhammad Shafiq said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman would always be remembered by the nation for his stand against the enemies of the press freedom. He pledged that that the protest of the journalists and workers will continue till the freedom of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The protesters also shouted slogans against the fascist regime and condemned the anti-media tactics of the NAB.

IN Peshawar, the members of the Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) and the Peshawar Press Club continued the protest even during Eidul Azha against the arrest of the Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and renewed the demand for his early release.

The protesting media men carried banners and placards inscribed with slogans. They demanded the release of the head of the Jang, Geo and The News who has been under detention since March 12. Among the speakers were Daily Jang Resident Editor Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali, Imdad Ali Qazalbash, KhUJ Vice-President Rizwan Sheikh and others. They termed the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman illegal, unconstitutional and an attack on the independent media. The speakers flayed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and National Accountability Bureau (NAB for victimizing the head of the largest media group of the country by detaining its owner.

They said the NAB had no right to arrest a person in a three decades-old property case, adding Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested because NAB had become a tool in the hands of the PTI govt. The KhUJ Vice- President Rizwan Sheikh said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was based on ill intentions.

He said the PTI government was following an anti-media policy which was affecting the media houses and the workers alike. Other speakers said cheap tactics were being used to pressure the Jang Media Group such as stopping advertisements and disrupting the Geo TV transmission which was sheer injustice. They said the government should have conducted accountability of those involved in mega corruption scandals but that was not done and the government had chosen to target the free media. The speakers requested the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the case to provide justice to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.