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‘Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest a lesson to media practitioners’

By Our Correspondent
August 11, 2020

LAHORE: Arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Editor-in-Chief of Jang Group of Publications and Geo TV, is a lesson to all media practitioners whether owners or working journalists to unite as iron wall or perish like losers. Media is at war for its constitutional rights. Criticism is painted as sedition against the state.

These views were expressed by a league of mainstream journalists in a dialogue session titled “Current Media Challenges” held under auspices of Soch, an organisation that works for the cause of democracy and media. Senior journalists Sohail Warraich, Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami, Altaf Hussain Qureshi, Hafeez Ulla Niazi, Sajjad Mir, Raof Tahir and Soch Chairman Muhammad Mehdi spoke on the occasion.

“Media is under immense pressure. Arrest of Mir Shakil is loud and clear message to convey how much media is being pressurised,” Sohail Warraich said. Mujeeb-ur-Rehman said that all journalist community direly needed a complete unity. “Whether they are media houses’ owners or working journalists if do not get unified, they will perish. Example of unlawful captivity of Mir Shakil is an overt message to media fraternity irrespective of who is who,” he warned.

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of Asia Programme and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center Washington, who joined dialogue session through video participation, said that over the last 12 years, Pakistan had democratic governments. “18th Amendment was unanimously approved. With illegal apprehension of Mir Shakil, one thing is clear that government wants to take political leverage. Criticism is being billed as treachery against state despite the fact exhibiting patience at voice of dissent is a hallmark of democracy,” he commented.

He said that although America took this matter into account but more was required to be done. Human rights organisations, he said, had been making positive contribution over the issue.

Soch Chairman Muhammad Mehdi said that present regime was being seen as regime of captivity. Along with arrest of Mir Shakil and others, new precedents of highhandedness was being set, he revealed. “Order of the day is who disagrees will have to face the music,” he lamented. He said that there was long list of media outlets especially Jang group, Dawn group and 24 News that were facing state snub. However, he mentioned, promising news was that captives were maintaining resolute courage. “Journalist fraternity has also united front on the issue of media freedom. They are ready to take on all challenges to champion the cause of protecting freedom of expression come what may,” he said.

Altaf Hussain Qureshi said that media was at war for constitutional rights. Arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman could never dwarf fearlessness. Similar to past, our flight would never falter, he added. He proposed for formation of media joint committee to iron out crucial issues, including arm-twisting and witch-hunting on media, unlawful arrest of Mir Shakil, wage board award and others.