LAHORE/MULTAN: The protest of journalists, civil society members, office-bearers of media unions and trade union of Jang Group against the arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman continued on Saturday for 189th consecutive day.
Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been detained for the last 211 days under the NAB custody over a 35-year old property exchange matter without giving any proof of charges or making any progress in investigations.
Staging a demonstration outside Jang offices, the participants criticized Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking U-turn on his tall claims of 20 years to turn Pakistan into a Madina-like state, alleging that he used the slogan only to woo media support to win elections and come into power. But Imran Khan has been victimizing Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for exposing the corruption and bad governance of the PTI government, they said. Lamenting that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was detained despite that no progress was made either in investigations into the corruption charges of the 35 years old property exchange case nor any formal case was registered. The participants termed it a blatant attack on media freedom and a conspiracy to close down the country’s largest media group. They chanted slogans against the fascist PTI regime and condemned the illegal and anti-media tactics of the NAB.
They demanded that the chief justice take suo motu action against this gross injustice 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, senior journalists Awais Qarni, Muhammad Shafiq, Sabir Awan, Munawwar Hussain, Shahid Aziz, Muhammad Ali, Akmal Bhatti, Afzal Abbas, Shahzad Rauf, Zahid Mehmood, Masood Ahmad 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 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.
Awais Qarni 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.
Muhammad Shafiq said victimization of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman must come to an end 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. He said the government instead of providing relief to people from the economic crunch is busy curbing the voice of media and victimizing media owners. He said the Jang Group always reported the truth.
Farooq Awan said 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.
Sher Ali Khalti 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.
Meanwhile, The Multan Union of Journalists, workers of Jang, Geo and The News and civil society activists Saturday staged a demonstration against the illegal detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his immediate release.
The protesters led by Jang Multan Resident Editor Zafar Aheer staged a demonstration on the Nusrat road in Cantonment. They were carrying banners and placards and chanting slogans against the arrest.
The journalists said the government is crushing free press in the country. The arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is not only an attack on free press but also a grave conspiracy against democracy. They said the government is conspiring to restrict the most popular media group in the country. The arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was widely condemned around the world but the government did not take a serious notice.
The journalists said the plight of freedom of press is too vulnerable in the PTI rule and the government is determined to crush free press after destroying other institutions.
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