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RAWALPINDI/LAHORE/PESHAWAR/KARACHI: The journalists and workers of Geo and Jang Group while holding protest demonstration against the illegal and unjustified arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman said they were proud to work with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman who stood firm in his principled stance of freedom of media.
The countrywide protest of journalists and workers of the Geo and Jang Group along with the journalists’ organisations, cross section of civil society and political workers against the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been going on for last 196 days.
At the protest camp outside the offices of the Jang and The News in Rawalpindi, the protesters chanted slogans for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
The protesters said they stood with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in the struggle for the media in the country and for the just cause of right of freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan.
Addressing the protest camp, Chairman Joint Action Committee of workers of Geo and Jang Group and President Jang Workers Union Rawalpindi Nasir Chisti said the rulers made the efforts to suppress the freedom of media but the workers of Geo and Jang group foiled these attempts.
Resident Editor Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid said the unity of journalists and workers of Geo and Jang group foiled the attempts against Geo and Jang group.
Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir said the ruler should learn from the history that the country could not move forward without freedom of media. PML-N leader from Rawalpindi Imtiaz Taji said the opposition has unanimously raised voice for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Worker of Jang Rawalpindi Amjad Ali Abbasi said all the national and international journalists and human rights organisation are raising the voice for the release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Workers of Jang Munir Shah said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is leading the struggle for the freedom of the media in the country.
Those who also attended the protest demonstration in Rawalpindi included Khalid Mehmood, Rahat Munir, Azhar Sultan, Kamal Shah, Naseerul Haq, Malik Nusrat, Laeeq Shaukat, Sardar Heera Lal and others.
In Lahore, journalists, civil society members, office-bearers of media unions and trade union of Jang Group on Friday condemned the arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for the last 196 days over a 35-year-old property exchange matter without giving any proof of charges or making any progress in investigations.
Staging a demonstration outside the Jang offices at a protest camp of the workers of Geo, Jang and The News employees for the 174th consecutive day, they criticized Prime Minister Imran Khan for working exactly opposite to his tall claims of over 20 years to turn Pakistan into a Madina-like state, which he used only to woo media support to come into power. But, actually, Imran Khan has been victimizing Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for exposing the corruption and bad governance of the PTI government, they said, adding that there was neither any progress 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 take a suo motu action against this gross injustice against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, which is 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 an anti-government movement across the country if he is not released.
The participants in the protest included Secretary General of Jang workers Union Farooq Awan, News Editor of Pakistan Times Zaheer Anjum, Awais Qarni, Shahab Ansari, Muhammad Shafiq, Ayesha Akram, Shagufta Naz, Aziz Sheikh, Munawwar Hussain, Shahid Aziz, Tariq Aziz, Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Ali, Akmal Bhatti, Afzal Abbas, Mushtaq, Zahid Mehmood 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 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.
Abdullah Malik 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 knows 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.
Awais Qarni 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.
Farooq Awan 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 providing relief to people from an economic crunch is busy curbing the voice of media and victimizing media owners. He said the Jang Group always reported the truth. He said the PTI government is using all pressure tactics to subdue the press and Jang Group is bearing the brunt being the largest media house in the country.
Aziz Sheikh said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is meant to suppress the 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.
In Bahawalpur, the Bahawalpur Union of Journalists and the press club members on Friday staged a demonstration and took out a rally against the arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
The protesters chanted slogans against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and termed his arrest illegal. They said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was an attack on free media.
In Peshawar, the members of the journalist community condemned the victimisation of the Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as they continued the protest against his arrest on Friday.
The protesters converged on the lawn outside the offices of Daily Jang, The News and Geo TV to protest the detention. Carrying banners and placards, they raised slogans against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and in support of media freedom.
Jang Resident Editor Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali, Sabz Ali Shah, Ehtesham Toru, Nasreen Jabeen, Sardar Imdad Ali Qazalbash and others spoke on the occasion. They resented the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and his detention for the last over six months. The speakers said the PTI government had arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on cooked-up charges on March 12 and he continued to be behind bars for the last 198 days.
They said the Jang Group chief had been arrested to gag the independent media and thus send a warning to other media houses against independent reporting. The protesters flayed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for targeting opposition parties and free media. They deplored that the anti-graft body had not taken any action against the ruling party members who, they alleged, were involved in tainted practices. The speakers questioned the NAB silence over wheat flour, sugar crises, Malam Jabba land, Billion Tree Tsunami and Bus Rapid Transit scams. They requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of the case and provide justice to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
In Karachi, speaking to the protest for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Qari Usman said that Imran Khan’s government must stop its vengeful campaign against the independent media immediately as it had already inflicted enough loss to the country.
Usman said that the Jang-Geo Group was promoting the country across the world but the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government was oppressing the same group to satisfy personal vendetta. He said the government was misusing its powers and it must acknowledge that it will have to reap what it was sowing.
The All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation general secretary, Shakil Yamin Kanga, said that the government was not willing to listen to the truth and those who dared to speak were being incarcerated. He demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said that otherwise, journalists, civil society and trade unionists will take to the streets against the government.
Javed Press Employees Union general secretary Rana Yusuf said that Imran Khan was victimizing not only Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman but the whole population of the country through his policies. He said that inflation, corruption, power and economic crisis had made it extremely difficult to do business in the country.