KARACHI/LAHORE/RAWALPINDI/PESHAWAR: The journalist community,media unions, civil society, political leaders and advocates of independent media continued their countrywide protest on the 44th day against the unjust arrest of Jang Geo Group editor-in-chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman outside the Jang-Geo Groups’ offices, terming it an unfortunate trend to coerce independent media into submission.
In Karachi, speaking to the demonstration, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz leader Munawwar Iqbal questioned the timing of MSR arrest, saying at the time when the whole world was battling with the Coronavirus, detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was incomprehensible and smacks of a conspiracy. Iqbal said that the Geo-Jang Group since its inception did an exemplary job of keeping the people informed of truth and when the government failed in restraining the Group from doing that it incarcerated the Group’s Editor In Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on trumped up charges. Iqbal said now it is a common knowledge that the prime minister is persecuting Rahman on account of his personal grudge and asked the PM to heed to saner advice and release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman immediately.
PML-N’s vice president Iqbal Khaksar said that he had been reading the daily Jang since his childhood because he trusted its balanced and fair editorial policy. He said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was nothing but a stunt to satisfy bloated egos. He added that since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has come into existence, the life of the common people has become even more difficult and even those who voted for it are now praying for the government to go.
The Secretary General, All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation’s Shakil Yamin Kanga, said that this is not the first time that the Geo-Jang Group has confronted serious problems, but this is the first time that the news workers are continuing to protest even in Ramazan for media freedom in the country. Kanga asked the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and order an independent inquiry into it. He said that because of this government, the future and livelihoods of media workers have been put into jeopardy.
The former president, Photographers Association of Pakistan’s Muhammad Shoaib criticized the continued detention of MSR.
In Lahore, senior journalists, civil society members, office-bearers of the media and trade union bodies have expressed regrets that those claiming to make Pakistan a Madina-like state have imprisoned Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a politically motivated case for the last 44 days. They added that it is outrageous that he continues to be detained even on the first of the holy month of Ramazan, though there was no progress either in investigation into the 34-year-old property exchange case nor a formal case was registered against the Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief.
They were addressing the participants in a protest camp, being held by the workers of Geo, Jang and The News at the call of the Joint Action Committee and the Jang Employees Union for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, outside the
Group’s offices for the 18th consecutive day on Saturday.
They demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and warned that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government could not continue with its dictatorial policies to coerce the freedom of expression and force economic murder of the media workers for long.
Those who participated in the protest camp and visited the camp to express solidarity with the Jang Group employees included Shaheen Qureshi, Group Editor Jang Group, civil society leader Abdullah Malik Advocate, socialist leader Comrade Zawwar Hussain Bukhari, Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) President Qamar Zaman Bhatti, Joint Secretary Nasrullah Malik, Chairman Jang editorial committee Bedar Bakht Butt, Bureau Chief Geo Lahore Raees Ansari, Editor Reporting Jang Pervaiz Bashir, senior journalist Maqsood Butt, Ms Tamseela Chishti, Zaheer Anjum, News Editor Pakistan Times, Adnan Malik, Khizr Hayat Gondal, Ahmad Faraz, office-bearers of Jang Employees Union and others.
Shaheen Qureshi said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was the first casualty because of his bold and independent editorial policy while other owners of the media houses were next in line. He feared that gagging the voice of independent media would become an easy for the ruling elite and establishment when the top-ranking media houses would either be closed down or cut to size with a little number of employees. He said the media owners must realise that unless they empower their workers and professional journalists, their own strength would be seriously curtailed, and they would fall an easy prey for the Establishment and ruling elite, adding that the persecution of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should serve as an eye-opener for all media houses owners.
Shaheen Qureshi said that their struggle was not only for the release of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman but also for the freedom of media in future. He warned that the campaign would continue against the puppet rulers even after the release of the Editor-in-Chief as it was a conspiracy against journalists and their freedom of expression.” He demanded the government to release the withheld Rs6 billion arrears of the media houses immediately so that media workers could be paid their salaries and dues under present the most pressing times. He said the government, despite acknowledging Rs3 billion arrears, had not released the amount.
Qamar Zaman Bhatti said the Punjab Union of Journalists had always stood by the media freedom, as it believed that no restriction on the media could be accepted. He said rather than putting journalists into jails, the government should focus on controlling the coronavirus pandemic. “Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be released as his arrest was a symbolic move to usurp media freedom.
“The arrest highlights the government’s policy to muzzle the free press and to economically coerce the outspoken ones which has resulted in the closure of noted news channels recently,” he said.
Bhatti said journalists’ associations had always struggled for justice to journalists and would continue to do so in future. “When journalists wage the struggle for freedom of expression, they always succeeded and many dictators in the past had to bite the dust,” he said.
Maqsood Butt said the media could not bring truth to forth without freedom, as it plays the role of watchdog for society and the country. He noted that similar victimisation was carried out by dictators like Gen Ayub Khan, Gen Ziaul Haq, Gen Pervez Musharraf and now the media workers are being victimised by Imran Khan, who was selected to gag the media as does not represent the masses and democracy.
Comrade Zawwar Hussain said the fake and fabricated case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be withdrawn and he should be released. He warned that if Mir Shakil was not released, the protest would only intensify, creating more problems for the government. He said the government, instead of tackling the coronavirus and providing relief to people under lockdown, was busy in curbing the voice of media and victimising the media houses owners
Bedar Bakht Butt said Jang Group always reported the truth. He said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was aimed at suppressing the independent media. Pervaiz Bashir said the arrest of Mir Shakil was not only a conspiracy against the Geo- Jang Group but also the first step to mute the media. He said that journalists, by staging hunger strikes, have proved that they would win the battle as they had achieved success in the past against dictators also. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is the voice of suppressed people and democracy.
In Rawalpindi, despite thunderstorm and rain in Rawalpindi, the workers of Geo-Jang Group continued their protest outside the offices of Jang and The News at Murree Road against the illegal arrest of arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo-Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman. The protest has now entered sixth week. Addressing the protesters, Chairman Joint Action Committee of Workers of Geo-Jang Group and President Jang Workers Union Nasir Chishti and other protesters said that the NAB has failed to present any reasons for illegal and un-constitutional arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo-Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur Rehman.
He said this is primarily a struggle for the freedom of press because first the government banned the advertisements of the group and when they failed to achieve the target then they arrested Editor-in-Chief. “The struggle will continue till the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman,” he pledged. He said the purpose of arresting Editor-in-Chief of the Geo-Jang Group was to economically murder the workers of Geo-Jang Group. Chisti said “we demand his early. The protesters raised slogans for the release of Geo-Jang Group’s Editor-in-Chief and for freedom of the independent press.
Similarly in Peshawar, the media workers continued protest against the illegal arrest of the Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman outside their offices.
Led by the Resident Editor, Daily Jang Arshad Aziz Malik, the workers were carrying banners and placards inscribed with demands for stopping coercion against independent media and protested the unjust and illegal detention of Geo-Jang Group’s Editor In Chief Mir Shakilur Rahman. They raised slogans against the government and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for implicating Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34-year-old property transaction.
Speaking on the occasion, Peshawar Press Club President Syed Bukhar Shah and Arshad Aziz Malik, denounced the government for the illegal and unjust arrest of the owner of the largest media group in the country. They said the journalists throughout the country and international organizations have condemned the arrest of Mir Shakilur Rahman and asked the government to release him and withdraw cases against him.
They said the government could not pressurize them to stop highlighting the truth. They vowed to continue struggle till the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Newspaper: The News