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RAWALPINDI/LAHORE/PESHAWAR/MULTAN: The journalist community and civil society members on Thursday continued their protest against the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his immediate release.
The protesters raised full-throated slogans against government and strongly condemned ‘NAB-Niazi Gath Jor’ on the occasion. They were carrying banners and placards and raised slogans against the detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the government’s policy to gag the free media.
Chairman Joint Action Committee of workers of Geo and Jang Group Nasir Chisti, Chairman Editorial Committee Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid, Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir and Abbas Alam, Najum Usmani, Kaleem Shamim, Laiq Shaukat, Amjad Ali Abbasi, Munir Shah, Malik Nusrat, Azhar Sultan, PFUJ General Secretary Nasir Zaidi, Khalid Mehmood, Asif Ali Bhatti, Muzaffar Bhatti, Zulfiqar Ali Khan, Sardar Heera Lal, Raja Imran, Aslam Khan, Irshad Qureshi, Shazada Iftikhar, Nadeem Yar Khan, Muzamal Khan, Haji Sadiq, Abdul Rehman, Amir Sajjad, Zafar Iqbal, Shah Nawaz,
Nazir Ahmed and several other workers of Geo and Jang Group said they were looking towards the superior judiciary of the country for justice and hoped that it will intervene to secure Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman's early release and bring curtain down to the dark chapter.
Senior journalists, civil society members, office-bearers of media unions and trade union of Jang Group have strongly condemned what they called the NAB-Niazi nexus under which they had detained Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a politically motivated case for the last 174 days without any progress. The protesters were staging demonstration in heavy rainfall.
In Lahore, senior journalists, civil society members, office-bearers of media unions and trade union of Jang Group have accused the PTI government of usurping media freedom by keeping Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman detained in NAB custody under a politically-motivated case for the last 173 days without giving any proof of their charges or making any progress in investigations. While staging a demonstration outside Jang offices on Thursday at a protest camp of the workers of Geo, Jang and The News employees for the 151st consecutive day, they lamented that Prime Minister Imran Khan came into power claiming to turn Pakistan into a Madina-like state, with the clear help of media. On the contrary, he has been victimizing Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for exposing the corruption and bad governance of the PTI government, they said, adding that there was no progress either in investigations into the corruption charges of 35 years old property exchange case against him nor any formal case was registered. The participants termed it a blatant attack on media freedom, chanted slogans against the ‘fascist PTI regime’ and condemned the illegal and anti-media tactics of the NAB. They demanded that the chief justice of Pakistan should take a suo motu action against this gross injustice against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s illegal arrest, which is a direct attack on the freedom of expression and liberty of media. They vowed to continue struggle for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman's release till his freedom and warned PM Imran Khan to reign in the NAB from further victimization of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. They demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and warned that any direct action could be taken against the PTI government to deter it from dictatorial policies to curb freedom of expression and force economic murder of media workers for long. They threatened to launch an anti-government movement across the country if he is not released.
Those who participated in the protest included Secretary General of Jang Workers Union Farooq Malik, News Editor of Pakistan Times Zaheer Anjum, Awais Qarni, Shahab Ansari, Mrs Aisha, Shafiq Ahmad, Aziz Sheikh, Mohammad Irshad, Munawwar Hussain, Shahid Aziz, Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Ali, Hafiz Asad, Akmal Bhatti, Afzal Abbas, Mushtaq and others.
Zaheer Anjum termed the PTI government the worst kind of fascist and authoritarian regime bent upon gagging the voice of media to prevent the exposure of its own corruption and bad governance. He warned that other owners of media houses are the next target as Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is the first casualty in the PTI government’s stifling media policy. He said choking the entire media would become an easy target for the PTI government and establishment when the top-ranking media house would either be closed down or badly reduced to size. He said media owners must realize 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. He said the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should serve as an eye-opener for all media owners.
Mohammad Irshad said media cannot work for the truth without freedom as it plays the role of a watchdog for the society and country. He noted that such victimizations were forced by dictators like Gen Ayub Khan, Gen Ziaul Haq, Gen Pervez Musharraf in the past, and now media workers are being victimized by Imran Khan who was selected by the establishment to curb media. He said the whole world knew the truth that Imran Khan was selected in sham elections and is now proving that he is not the representative of the masses and democracy.
Farooq Malik said victimization of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman must come to an end after the detention of over five months, and he should be released as his arrest is a symbolic move to usurp media freedom. Already the results desired by the rulers are coming out and the arrest is leading towards crumbling of other media houses and closure of noted news channels and retrenchment of workers in others recently. He said the journalists would continue struggle for justice and release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, adding that when the journalists waged struggle for freedom of expression, they always succeeded and many dictators in the past had to bite the dust.
Aziz Sheikh said the fabricated case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be withdrawn and he should be released. He warned if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is not released, 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 is busy curbing the voice of media and victimizing media owners. He said the Jang Group always reported the truth. The PTI government is using all pressure tactics to subdue the press and the Jang Group is bearing the brunt being the largest media house in the country.
Awais Qarni said Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a symbol of freedom of expression and this struggle is not only for his release but also for the freedom of media in the future. He warned that this campaign would continue against the puppet rulers even after his release since it is a conspiracy against journalists and the freedom of expression. He said everybody in the country, who struggled for the freedom of expression, is Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Shahab Ansari said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is not only a conspiracy against the Jang/Geo Group but also the first step to mute all voices of 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. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is the voice of suppressed people and democracy.
Muhammad Ali said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is being punished for writing and reporting the truth, but the rulers would not be able to pressure him as he represents the free media. He said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is meant to suppress independent media and it is an illegal detention since he always kept his financial dealings clean and its proof is that no government could ever find any doubtful deal with him.
Munawwar Hussain said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman would always be known by the nation for his stand against the enemies of the press freedom. He pledged that the protest and struggle of journalists and workers will continue till the freedom of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
In Peshawar, the media workers on Thursday demanded the release of the Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as they continued the protest against his detention.
The protesters gathered at the Daily Jang, The News and Geo TV offices in the Khyber Supermarket while carrying banners.
They condemned the detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman since March 12 and hostile media policy of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. Daily Jang Resident Editor Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali, Shah Zaman, Imdad Ali Qazalbash, Qaiser Khan, Gulzar Khan, Gohar Ali, Ansar Abbas and others addressed the protesters. They were critical of the PTI government for putting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman under detention for the last 176 days on false charges.
The speakers said the PTI government was targeting the political opponents and those media houses, which were promoting independent journalism. They pointed out that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the Jang Media Group were being victimised by the PTI government deliberately as they had refused to toe the official line in the media coverage.
The speakers said all this was being done by the rulers to shift the focus of the people’s attention from the poor governance and hide their failures as they had failed to deliver on all fronts.
The protesters slammed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) role and said the so-called anti-corruption watchdog was not following a fair method to go after the tainted people. The NAB arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a property deal which was struck as per the law between the two parties, said the speakers. The protesters noted that the NAB was intentionally ignoring the massive graft scandals as the ruling party members were seen behind such corrupt practices.
The speakers requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of the case and provide justice to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as his detention had entered into six months.
Meanwhile, office-bearers of Multan Union of Journalists, traders, civil society activists and Jang/Geo Group workers Thursday staged a protest for the release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo/Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The protestors carrying placards and banners staged a demonstration on Nusrat Road and raised slogans against illegal and unconstitutional detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Addressing the demonstrators, the Anjuman Tajran Zakariya Town Bosan Road president condemned the illegal detention of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been detained to put curbs on media. He said it is a violation of human rights.
Office-bearers of MUJ Shakil Baloch and Shafqat Bhutta said the government is violating the Article 19 of the Constitution which allows every Pakistani the right of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. They said the image of Pakistan is being tarnished across the world in terms of curbs on media by the current government. Jang/Geo Group workers Zafar Aheer, Nadeem Shah, Shahadat Hussein, Nisar Awan, Ehtesham Baig, Aqil Chaudhry condemned the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo-Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and urged the Supreme Court Chief Justice to take suo motu and order the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.