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Protests against illegal detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman continue: London protest demands release of Jang-Geo Group editor-in-chief

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October 23, 2020

RAWALPINDI/LAHORE/LONDON: The countrywide protest demonstrations of journalists and workers of Geo and Jang Group against the illegal and unjustified detention of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman continued on Thursday and the arrest was declared as a coward act of the government, only meant to suppress the voices for freedom of media in the country.

Another protest against unlawful detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was held in London, where journalists demanded immediate release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group. The protests of journalists and workers of the Geo and Jang Group, along with the journalist organisations, cross section of civil society and political workers have been continuing for the last 223 days outside the offices of Jang and The News building in Rawalpindi that has already been declared as the “Freedom Street”.

The protesters chanted slogans and raised the placards for the release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Addressing the protest camp, Chairman Joint Action Committee of workers of Geo and Jang Group and President Jang workers Union Rawalpindi Nasir Chisti said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and workers would never bow before any pressure and only follow the independent journalism to bring the truth before the people of Pakistan.

Resident Editor of Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid said Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had always raised his voice for the freedom of the media in the country.

Staging demonstration outside the Jang offices in Lahore and other places, the protesters criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for backing out on his 20-year claim to turn Pakistan into a Medina-like state, alleging that he used the slogan only to hoodwink masses and win elections through media support.

Imran Khan, they said, had been victimising Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for exposing the corruption and bad governance of PTI regime, they said. The participants termed it a blatant attack on media freedom and a conspiracy to close down country’s largest media group. They chanted slogans against the fascist PTI regime and condemned using NAB for media’s arm twisting.

They demanded the chief justice should take suo moto action against this gross injustice which was a direct attack on the freedom of expression and liberty of media. In Karachi, the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz leader Iqbal Khaksar on Thursday demanded immediate release of Jang-Geo Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and lauded the untiring efforts of the Jang-Geo Action Committee to protect the media independence.

He said the PML-N will keep on supporting the protesting employees of the Jang-Geo Group until their demands are met.

Others who spoke at the demonstration included All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation’s Secretary General Shakil Yamin Kanga, The News Employees Union’s General Secretary Dara Zafar and Javed Press Employees Union’s General Secretary Rana Yusuf.Meanwhile, Pakistani journalists, belonging to various media outlets and journalist unions, protested against the illegal detention of Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in London on Thursday.

The protest which was attended by various Pakistani journalists and a UK councilor among other human rights activists was held at the iconic Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. Speaking to Geo News, Mushtaq Lasharie, who is the Honorary Alderman of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea said: "We are here in Speaker's Corner to highlight the importance of freedom of speech. I want to tell the rulers of Pakistan that this country has never accepted unnecessary curbs on journalism.

"I am here to protest against the illegal detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman who has been arrested in a baseless and unwarranted case. Even a murder suspect can get bail but Mir Shakil has been unable to get bail in this case." Lasharie further stated that Pakistan and Jang Group were incomplete without each other, and if one was attacked, the existence of the other would face vulnerability.

Journalists raised slogans calling for a free press in Pakistan and collectively rejected the unnecessary curbs on Pakistani journalists and news outlets.

The President of Pakistan Press Club in the UK, Shaukat Dar said: "It's been 6-7 months since Mir Shakil has been kept under illegal confinement. This has angered the global journalism community. If the police of Pakistan can stand by their Inspector General, then we journalists will also stand by our colleagues. "Right now, all of Pakistan's journalists are holding protests and are demanding the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman."

Another senior journalist present on the occasion said: "We demand the government of Pakistan to allow the media to operate freely and false cases against journalists, including the case regarding Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be immediately withdrawn."

Journalists who spoke at the protest gathering said Mir Shakil is a journalist before being a media entrepreneur responsible for running the largest media group of Pakistan. They said MSR’s detention for nearly eight months is an indictment of the current govt and it’s policies towards media. They said thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in the last two years.

Previously, South Asia Democracy Watch wrote to The White House, the Secretary of State, and members of the Senate and House members of the Foreign Relations Committee condemning the illegal confinement of Jang/Geo group Editor-in-Chief.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest has also caused an outcry in Pakistan as well as in international forums. Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have termed this arrest an attack on press freedom.

This year, Pakistan fell three spots in the Global Press Freedom Index, from 142 to 145, out of 180 countries.