Seeking Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s release: Jang-Geo Group CBA to organise hunger strike camps

KARACHI/QUETTA/LAHORE/MULTAN/ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: The Jang-Geo Group’s CBA unions and journalist associations in Karachi have appealed to the international journalist organisations to raise their voice against the illegal and unjust arrest of Jang/Geo Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and join hands in the struggle to free the media in Pakistan.

The Jang-Geo Group CBA Action Committee in its meeting on Wednesday resolved that the whole journalist community here and abroad was convinced that the National Accountability Bureau’s vindictive action against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is tantamount to suppressing the independent media and stressed that now is the time to collectively raise voice against this injustice.

Referring to the case, the committee commented that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had started receiving punishment even before convictionand his incarceration was in violation of the Islamabad High Court’s order in the AkramDurrani case holding that none should be held captive at the inquiry stage. They added that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was put behind the bars at the complaint verification stage in a 34-year-old case in which he already was cooperating with authorities by regularly appearing for interrogation.

Meanwhile, the action committee decided to expedite the protest campaign for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and pondered holding hunger strike camps at all stations across the country. They expressed apprehensions over the Lahore accountability court’s decision to extend Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s physical remand for the third time. It observed that at a time when the whole world is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing is highly enforced to prevent the spread of virus, keeping Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in unlawful custody was condemnable and reflected the federal government’s personal bias to persecute the chief of the country’s largest media house.

Similarly, in Lahore, Jang-Geo Group journalists and other staff have started a hunger strike against the NAB-govt nexus in keeping the group’s editor-in-chief under detention without any conviction and the government’s denial of the group’s Rs6 billion arrears from advertisements.

Addressing on the occasion, Editor ShaheenQureshi, Geo Bureau Chief Raees Ansari, Daily Jang reporters Maqsood Butt, Mohammad Farooq and others said the government has unleashed a campaign against the independent media and is using NAB to pressure the Jang-Geo into virtual silence.

Terming Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s illegal and unjust detention a reflection of the government’s fascist policies, they said the government wants to muzzle the media.

Also in Quetta, the journalists Jang-Geo Group, including President Jang Employees Union Abdul SamaadMengal, Syed KashifHussain, Rashid SaeedChohan, and AbdurRehman, held a symbolic hunger strike on Wednesday.

While addressing a large number of media persons and the group’s staff, President Jang Employees Union Abdul SamaadMengalciriticised NAB’s excessive actions against the independent media, especially the Jang-Geo Group. He said the only crime of the Editor-in-Chief of the Jang-Geo Group was not to compromise its independent reporting and editorial policies in the larger interest of the common man, which drew the government’s ire.

Mengal said arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34-year-old private property case has been slammed by a cross-section of political parties, civil society, lawyers and international media and human rights organisations. He said the group’s staff and media persons will be forced to launch a hunger strike till death if the group’s editor-in-chief was not released forthwith.

Similarly, lawyers alongside journalists and staff of Multan’s Jang-Geo Group set up hunger strikers camp to protest against the unlawful and unjust detention of the group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. They raised slogans for releasing Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, stop pressurising the media and for ending economic constraints on the media.

Addressing a large gathering, Member Punjab Bar Council, ChaudharyDawood Ahmad Vance, said the PTI by arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has proven to be against the independent media. The lawyer said being a private property transaction it does not fall under NAB’s jursidiction. He said if at all there is any semblance of procedural violation, the lease and registration of the property can be cancelled.

Senior lawyer and ex-president high court bar Athar Shah Bukhari said the PTI-NAB nexus against the Jang-Geo Group is not only unlawful and unjust but also immoral and unethical as well. He said in order to curb the free media, the government is bent upon stiffening economic constraints against journalists. Former vice president district bar Bashir Ahmad Ansari said NAB should have collected all evidence against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman but they have committed travesty of justice by detaining MSR during the investigation phase. Senior office-bearer district bar Advocate Hafiz Mohammad NaveedAkhtar said the government in order to hide its economic mismanagement and inept governance has chosen to crack down on Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Multan Jang’s Resident Editor ZafarAheer said MSR’s arrest represents putting virtual chains around free and independent media. By persecuting the country’s largest media group, the PTI government has conveyed to entire media industry that they will be next in line if they criticise the government. Aheer said the government is holding back on paying the arrears of group’s advertisements worth Rs six billion, of which they have even admitted Rs three billion due to which over 3,000 journalists across the country have lost jobs. He said in the first phase, the media persons have started symbolic hunger strikers camp but if MSR was not released early, they will forced to come out on streets. Others present in the protest included Advocate MasoodYounus, RanaEhtehsmaulHaq, FawadQureshi, UsmanJaved, Chief Reporter Malik Nisar, Member Executive PFUJ, AbdurRaoof Mann, Ch Imran, KashifSiddique, Ikram, Kamal AyoobSiddiqui, Abdul Jabbar and Mohammad Khaqan.

In Islamabad, the Jang-Geo CBA Joint Action Committee newsmen and staff have decided to hold hunger strike camps across the provincial capitals from Monday.

Addressing the participants online, president Jang-Jang-Geo CBA Joint Action Committee, NasirChisti said from Friday, PFUJ Secy Gen NasirZaidi, ex-president Jang Union GhulamQadir and Geo’s reporters and RIUJ’s secretary Asif Ali Bhatti will start the hunger strikers camp.

In Islamabad, the hunger strikers camp would be set up near the Geo News offices at the Embassy Road, Jang building at Davis Road Lahore, and Karachi’s Jang building at I IChundrigar Road. Addressing the media fraternity, JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani strongly protested the incarceration of MSR, saying this goes on to prove the government’s vindictive agenda against the Jang-Geo Group for exposing government’s policies.

In Peshawar, the workers of the Jang Group continued the hunger strike camp on the third consecutive day on Wednesday to protest against the arrest of their Editor-in-Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, and demanded the government to free him forthwith.

The camp is arranged outside the offices of Daily Jang, The News and Geo in the provincial capital to seek the release of the head of the largest media group of the country.

As the camp was in its third day, the protesters were carrying placards and banners that condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, attacks on the press freedom by the government and its moves to murder journalists economically. They chanted slogans to condemn the arrest of the Jang Group editor-in-chief in a 34-year-old property case that involved the private parties.

The members of the KP Parliamentary Reporters Association joined the camp on the third day to condemn the arrest and express solidarity with the workers of Jang, Geo and The News. General Secretary of the association, Gulzar Muhammad Khan, spoke on the occasion. Gulzar said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was made only to punish the Jang Group for pursuing independent journalism and unveiling the truth. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman represented a free media and hoped the government’s actions would not stop the Jang Media Group and other journalists from reporting the truth.

KP Parliamentary Reporters Association office-bearers stressed the role of a free media in democracy and said nobody could deny that fact.

Other speakers said Prime Minister Imran Khan was on record for acknowledging that his rise to power was due to the free media that always gave him a platform to reach out to the masses. They said that now that when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was in power, it was pressurising the free media to toe its line, adding the arrest of the Jang Media Group chief clearly proved that point beyond any doubt.

The protesters demanded the government to end the revengeful actions against the Jang Media Group and free Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman without any further delay.

Also in Peshawar, PML-N leaders Sabir Shah, Amir Muqam, MurtazaAbbasi, IkhtiarWali alongside KPK’s ex govenor, CM, dy speaker NA, information minister said Rahman is being persecuted for his uprightness and editorial policy to expose the government’s anti democratic credentials, economic mismanagement and inept governance. He said the government instead of cracking down against free media must focus on the serious threats like coronavirus pandemic, overcoming umeployment, inflation, poverty.

In Karachi, FaysalEdhi of the Edhi Welfare Organisation said the trumped up charges against MSR were maligning the country’s image at this critical time when we need unity to overcome coronavirus. Edhi asked the government to focus instead on controlling the lethal coronavirus pandemic, which is seriously affecting the country in myriads of ways. He said media should be allowed to play its independent role without any curbs. Terming Jang-Geo the country’s largest media group, FaysalEdhi demanded MSR’s release by suspending the case.

Deputy AmeerJamaat-e-Islami and secretary general MilliYekjehti Council LiaquatBaloch and central leaders Saqib Akbar, PirHaroonGilani, PirSafdarGilani, AllamaArifHussainWahidi, PirGhulamRasoolOwaisi, KhMoinuddinMahboobKoreja, Hafiz Abdul GhafoorRokri, RaziatBillah in their joint statement said they were pained by Jang-Geo Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s victimization and demanded his early release. They said it was shocking that a 34-year old private business case was being used to intimidate the media and MSR.

Newspaper: The News