Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest: Journalists’ countrywide protests enter 52nd day on World Press Freedom Day

RAWALPINDI/ LAHORE/PESHAWAR/ KARACHI: The protest of journalists and workers of Geo and Jang Group along with the cross section of civil society, political workers and journalists organisations continued on Sunday against the illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

The protest of media workers entered 52nd day on Sunday on the eve of International Press Freedom Day against the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The protesters raised slogans for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and pledged that the protest will continue till the release of the Editor-in-Chief and achieving the freedom of media.

Addressing the protest camp outside the offices of Jang and The News in Rawalpindi, the speakers called for release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, saying that 52 days have past, but he was under detention in a fake and fabricated case.

They said purpose of the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was only to attack the press freedom and Geo and Jang Group.

Chairman Joint Action Committee and President Jang Workers Union Nasir Chishti said international human rights organisations have declared the case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as fake and fabricated and demanding his release. He said the rulers were mistaken if they think that they could bring Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman into pressure with such tactics.

“The workers of Geo and Jang Group stand with their Editor-in-Chief and will continue their protest till his release,” he said.

Media workers said the international human rights organisations, journalists and intellectuals all over the world condemned the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and declared it attack on the freedom of media.

They said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman will never bow before the illegal demands of the rulers.

In Lahore, senior journalists, workers of Jang Group and members of civil society continued protest against the illegal detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on World Press Freedom Day.

World Press Freedom Day was observed worldwide but in Pakistan it was marked with more enthusiasm outside the offices of Jang/Geo Group in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and etc as Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who is a known activist of free press, was under illegal detention of government for the past many weeks.

Outside the Lahore office, a large number of journalists from different media organisations, workers of Jang/Geo/The News, political workers of different parties and representatives of many civil society organisations gathered and shouted slogans for free media, free press as well as free Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

All of the protesters were of the view that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was detained in a fake case because the government wanted to him to give up his free media stance. Prominent protesters included Shaheen Qureshi, Geo Bureau chief Raees Ansari, Shazia Khan of Awami Workers Party, PUJ chief Qamar-uz-Zaman Bhatti, Abdullah Malik and Jang chief reporter Maqsood Butt. They raised slogans for immediate release of Editor-in-Chief and pledged that they will continue to protest till Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s release.

Raees Ansari said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman always struggled for freedom of press. He said his detention was illegal and demanded the government to immediately release him.

Qamar Bhatti, said international press freedom organisations should intervene in this issue and exert pressure on the government to release Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said human rights organisations, journalist organisations and intellectuals have already declared arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman an attack on media and were demanding his immediate release.

Maqsood Butt said Editor-in-Chief and Jang Group was made target only for bringing the truth and facts before the people. He said rulers didn’t like free media so they arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, only to put pressure on him. “I know Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a man of strong nerves and will not bow down,” he said, adding the Editor-in-Chief had already refused to toe the line of the government in running his channel as well as newspapers. Shaheen Qureshi said workers of Jang/Geo Group were protesting in a peaceful manner. He thanked the civil society and political workers for joining the protest camp and said the matter is now with the higher judiciary and they are hopeful to get justice soon in the shape of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s freedom.

The PML-Nleader Arbab Khizer Hayat commended Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s commitment to freedom of press and demanded his immediate release.

In his message, Arbab Khizer Hayat said that media is the voice of the oppressed, helpless and helpless. “To speak the truth to power is always difficult but this duty is fulfilled by the media with great courage,” he said, but regretted that in the present era the hands of the critical media in the country are tied. “We pay homage to all journalists who were martyred in the way of the truth,” he added.

He said that if the present government believed in the constitutional right to freedom of expression, then it must immediately pay the outstanding dues to the media and save workers from unemployment and their families from starvation. He said that there had never been a day when the media and workers do not present the viewpoint of the ruling party. “In fact, if Imran Khan understands, his party was established thanks to the media,” he added. After the national print and electronic media, he said, now social media has also come under the government’s attack, because Imran Khan now sees himself in the mirror by social media and does not tolerate it either.

In Peshawar, the media workers from the Jang/Geo Group continued to protest against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, and renewed the commitment to continue the struggle for securing his release.

Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands, the protestors chanted slogans against the government and NAB.

They were critical of both for illegally detaining the editor of the biggest media group in a property case which was over three decades old. The participants recalled that they had been staging the protest for the last 53 consecutive days for the release of their editor-in-chief but the rulers remained unmoved.

Speaking on the occasion, Daily Jang Resident Editor Arshad Aziz Malik and others said the entire world was watching the illegal detention of Mir Shakil. They said the Jang Group chief was cooperating with NAB but still, he was arrested without fulfilling the legal procedures and completing the inquiry.

This, they, said was done to pressurise the biggest media group. They said the rulers were resorting to cheap tactics which would not succeed.

The speakers demanded the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, withdrawal of cases against him and release of dues to the Jang Group so that workers could be paid salaries. They said the rulers wanted to suppress independent media and the opposition but such policies were not in the interest of democracy and country.

In Karachi, journalists and media trade union bodies at the protest said that marking World Press Freedom Day on Sunday (May 3), international leaders have been directing their governments to ensure the independence of media and safety of journalists, but on the contrary, rulers in Pakistan have been busy in suppressing press freedom.

They were speaking to the participants of the protest camp set up outside Jang Building, Azadi Street, in Karachi for the release of the group’s Editor In Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The Jang-Geo joint action committee organised the protest camp.

They said that journalists and rights organisations, academics and parliamentarians across the world have reacted furiously to the illegal arrest of Mir Shakeel-ur-Rahman in Pakistan and termed it an attack on press freedom.

The All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation (Apnec)’s secretary-general Shakeel Yamin Kanga said that on the international press freedom day, all international leaders, including the United National’s secretary-general, have been raising their voices to uphold media freedom and to ensure the safety of media workers.

“But in Pakistan, the government has detained Mir Shakeel-ur-Rahman, Group Editor In Chief of the country’s largest media network, in a baseless and false case,” Kanga said. He said that his arrest is the part of the government’s ongoing efforts to pressure the country’s mainstream media.

He said that journalism and media rights bodies across the world have been demanding the Pakistani government to immediately release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman whose detention in a 34 years old property case is apparently an attempt to gag and control mainstream media.

The Pakistani government has deliberately been showing its shamelessness and keeping Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in detention for the past 52 days without any evidence, he said.

He said that if the government didn’t release him immediately, journalist bodies across the country will devise a new strategy to launch a protest against the government.

Atiq Ur Rehman, a senior journalist, said that Jang, Geo, and The News have always written and spoken the truth and because of it, people across the world trust in their news and reporting. He also demanded to immediately release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and end baseless cases against him.

Dara Zafar, general secretary of The News Employees Union, said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has focused its all energies to suppress media freedom instead of resolving the issues the people have been facing.

“The government wants to press the media to run only its narrative and the media organizations, such as the Jang-Geo group, which is resisting, has been facing governments’ acts of vengeance and threats,” said Zafar.

Javed Press Union’s Rana Yousuf said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was being punished for publishing truth but the rulers would not be able to pressurise him and other journalists. “But they (government) would not succeed in their mission,” said Yousaf.

Newspaper: The News