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September 19, 2020

Demand made for release of Editor-in-Chief

Top Story

September 19, 2020

RAWALPINDI/PESHAWAR/KARACHI/LAHORE: Journalists on Friday continued protest against the arrest of the Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and called for his release forthwith.

The protesters converged on the lawn outside the offices of Daily Jang, The News and Geo TV at the Khyber Super Market to register their anguish at the long incarceration of the Jang Group head. The protesters raised slogans against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government for pursuing a hostile policy against the media.

Jang Resident Editor Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali, Farmanullah Jan, Sabz Ali Shah, Gohar Ali, Qaiser Khan, Imdad Ali Qazalbash, Shah Zaman, Sheeba Haider, Rahamdil and others spoke on the occasion.

The speakers flayed the PTI government for arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on cooked-up charges on March 12 and keeping him interned for the last 191 days. They said the Jang Group chief had been targeted and put under detention since then to gag the free media and stifle the bold voices. The protesters were critical of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and said it was biased in taking actions against the opposition parties and was after the free media.

The speakers requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of the case and provide justice to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who represented the largest media group of the country.

In Rawalpindi, journalists and workers of the Geo-Jang Group, while protesting against the illegal and unjustified arrest of Editor-in-Chief of the Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, said that the international human rights groups and journalist organizations were declaring the arrest as illegal and vindictive policy to curb the freedom of media but the rulers were unmoved on these voices. The journalists and workers of the Geo-Jang Group, along with the Federal Union of Journalists, Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists, representatives of the civil society and political workers, continued their protest against the illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for the last 188 days. At the protest camp outside the offices of Jang and The News in Rawalpindi, addressing the demonstration Secretary General PFUJ Nasir Zaidi said the All Parties Conference of the Pakistan Bar Council has also condemned the arrest of the Group chief in a fake and fabricated case and demanded his release. He said it was a great victory of the workers of Geo and Jang that the APC of PBC has raised its voice in support of Editor-in-Chief. He said those in power aimed to control the independent editorial policy of the Geo-Jang Group by arresting the Editor-in-Chief but all the workers of the Group stood with their Editor-in-Chief to foil their attempts. Nasir Chisti said the workers of Geo and Jang Group will not bow before the pressure.

Secretary General RIUJ Asif Ali Bhatti said despite the whole world condemning the arrest of Editor-in-Chief, the rulers were unmoved.

PML-N leader of Rawalpindi Imtiaz Taji said the restrictions on the freedom of the media is a gross violation of the constitution.

In Karachi, speaking to the protest for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on Friday, traders’ leader said that they will keep supporting the Jang-Geo Group against the draconian curbs being imposed by the federal government on it for promoting fair and independent journalism.

Amin Jan, Chairperson of Old Haji Camp Landa Bazar Association, said that if the government did not back off from its vendetta against the Jang-Geo Group, then they will take to the streets, expanding their protest on the call of the Jang-Geo Action Committee.

Jan said that businesspersons in the country were being persecuted and the case concocted against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was part of the same vengeful campaign by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government. He demanded the government to immediately release the Jang-Geo editor-in-chief.

All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation secretary general Shakil Yamin Kanga said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had committed the sin of informing the people about the issues that really concerned them. Timber Market Association leader Altaf Soomro said that Imran Khan before becoming the prime minister had sold people dreams of a better future but the real picture turned out to be complete opposite. He said that businesses were struggling to run and power had become a major issue.

Others who spoke at the demonstration included The News Employees Union general secretary Dara Zafar and Javed Press Employees Union general secretary Rana Yusuf.

In Lahore, Journalists, civil society members, office-bearers of media unions and Jang Workers Union lamented that PTI government was usurping media freedom and causing mass unemployment in media industry through different tactics including detaining Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for the last 189 days.

Staging demonstration outside the Jang Offices Friday at the protest camp of the workers of Jang, Geo and The News for the 167th consecutive day, they lamented that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been claiming to turn Pakistan into a Madina-like state for the last two decades, and was voted to power with the help of media. But, strangely, he had been victimising Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for exposing the corruption and bad governance of the PTI regime, they said, adding that there was no progress either in investigations into the corruption charges against him nor any formal case registered. They termed it a blatant attack on media freedom, shouted slogans against the fascist government and condemned the anti-media tactics of the NAB.

They demanded the Supreme Court chief justice for taking a suo motu notice against this gross injustice which was a direct attack on the freedom of expression and liberty of media. They demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and threatened to launch anti-government movement across the country if he was not released.

The protesters included Jang Group Editor Shaheen Qureshi, Jang Workers Union Secretary General Malik Farooq Awan, Pakistan Times News Editor Zaheer Anjum, Awais Qarni, Muhammad Shafiq, Abdul Wahab, Ayesha Akram, Riffat, Aziz Sheikh, Munawwar Hussain, Shahid Aziz, Tariq Aziz, Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Ali, Akmal Bhatti, Afzal Abbas and Mushtaq.

Shaheen Qureshi termed the PTI government the worst kind of fascist and authoritarian regime bent upon gagging the voice of media to prevent exposure of its own corruption and bad governance. He warned other owners of the media houses were the next target after Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who was the first casualty in PTI government’s stifling media policy.

He said choking the entire media would become an easy target for the government and establishment when the top-ranking media house would either be closed down or badly reduced to size. 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. He said the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should serve as an eye-opener for all the media houses owners.

Zaheer Anjum said media cannot work for the truth without freedom, as it played the role of watchdog for the society. He noted that such victimizations were forced by dictators like Gen Ayub Khan, Gen Zia, Gen Pervez Musharraf, in the past, and now media workers were being victimised by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was selected by the establishment to curb media. He said the whole world knew the truth that Imran was selected in sham elections and was now proving that he was not the representative of the masses.

Awais Qarni said victimisation 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 was a symbolic move to usurp media freedom. Malik Farooq Awan said the bogus case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be withdrawn and he should be released. He warned that if the editor-in-chief was not released then the protest would gain momentum creating more problems for the government. He said the PTI government was using all pressure tactics to subdue the Press and the Jang Group was bearing the brunt being the largest media house in the country.

Muhammad Shafiq said 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. He said this campaign would continue against the puppet rulers even after his release since it was a conspiracy against the journalists and the freedom of expression. He said everybody in the country who struggled for the freedom of expression was Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Ayesha Akram said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was not only a conspiracy against the Jang Group but also the first step to mute all the voices of the independent media. She 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.