Countrywide protests against Geo closure, attacks

ISLAMABAD: Countrywide rallies were held to protest against the four-month closure of Geo and press the government to restore the channel on its original numbers forthwith.

Rallies held in different cities including Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Kasur, Multan, Sukkur and Hyderabad were organized by journalists and newspaper workers organisations. Besides a large number of journalists and newspaper workers, Akhbar Farosh leaders, civil society members and traders and lawyers representatives participated in the rallies and vowed to resist the closure of Geo in order to protect the jobs of over 5,000 employees of Jang-Geo Group.

They also demanded a probe by parliament unveiling those behind Geo’s closure. In Islamabad, a big rally marched from the Geo offices to the Parliament House where a sit-in was staged. Members of civil society organisations, lawyers, traders and representatives of various political parties also became part of the sit-in and vowed that they would not allow the marchers to attack the media houses and harass their employees to prevent them from bringing truth to the people.

The participants carried placards reading “Restore Geo”, “Stop Violence against Journalists”, “Live and Let Live”, “Journalists are No Longer Safe”, “We Want Freedom of Press” and “Stop Killing Journalists”. They also shouted slogans in favour of the freedom of the press and vowed that it would be protected at all costs.

It is pertinent to mention here that on Sunday night, the Geo News building was attacked by activists of PTI and PAT when employees of Geo, Jang and The News were working.

During the last one week, the Geo/Jang offices located on the Fazl-e-Haq Road, Islamabad, have been attacked 20 times, and rioters have broken the windows of the building and windscreens of vehicles belonging to employees.

Addressing the protesters, leading journalist Hamid Mir said former dictator Pervez Musharraf had tried hard to curb the freedom of the press but failed miserably in his nefarious designs and the journalists community protected its rights against all odds.

“If Imran Khan has any moral courage, then he should condemn the attacks on the offices of Geo News by his Gullu Butts and also show his commitment towards the freedom of the press,” he said.

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Afzal Butt said the journalists had the right to seek an apology from Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri for the attack on the Geo News offices and the harassment of journalists, workers and staff members of Geo News, The News and Jang.

He said parliament should probe who was behind the closure of Geo. He said: “An independent commission should be constituted to probe the allegations being leveled against the Jang Group and if these are proved, then we would launch a campaign against this media group. But it is highly unethical that some politicians and other people are continuously leveling allegations against the Jang Group without giving any proof or evidence.”

“I heard that some quarters are asking the Jang Group to provide Rs250 million if it wants restoration of transmission of Geo News across the country. The journalists community would not tolerate these threats and stand with the media group that always protected the interests of Pakistan,” he said.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan said no one could mute the voice of Geo News that is still determined to bring the truth to the people despite the fact that it has been under tremendous pressure from various segments due to its independent editorial policies.

“It is highly unfortunate that Hamid Mir was brutally attacked and he received six bullets but so far no one knows who was behind this criminal act. I salute the journalists who are facing threats but still performing their duties in line with the professional media ethics,” he said.

Senator Zahid Khan of ANP said the transmission of Geo News was already blocked in various cities and now the marchers had been carrying out attacks on its offices, which was a clear indication that some segments of the society cannot tolerate a free media and they want to curb the freedom of the press in Pakistan.

Former MNA Ayatollah Durrani said the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stands for the freedom of the press and fully supports the media persons that are working amid a highly uncongenial environment.

The Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) president Ali Raza Alvi said the marchers need to understand that the freedom of the press cannot be compromised because it has helped a lot for strengthening the judiciary and democracy in the country.

RIUJ General Secretary Bilal Dar said the PTI and PAT workers were trying to force the Geo staff to telecast news according to the wishes of Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri, which was blatantly against the media ethics.

Senior journalist Nasir Zaidi deplored the continuous closure of Geo for the last four months and termed it an act to curb the press freedom. He said the journalists would continure their struggle that is bound to succeed. He also demanded a probe by parliament why cable operators had failed to implement the Pemra and SC orders for restoration of Geo to its original numbers.

Senior journalist Shaheen Qureshi called for the formation of a parliamentary committee to get to the bottom of Geo closure issue. Former president of Rawalpindi Press Club Nawaz Raza expressed solidarity with the workers of Jang/Geo Group.

Our Peshawar Bureau adds: Members of the Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) and the Peshawar Press Club (PPC) staged a protest against the attacks on the office of Geo television in Islamabad and manhandling of journalists by workers of the PTI and PAT.

Led by the presidents of the KhUJ and PPC, Nisar Mahmood and Nasir Hussain, the protesters carrying banners and placards, marched on the road. They urged the leaders of both the PTI and PAT to control their workers, stop attacking the media houses and manhandling of journalists.

In their separate speeches, Nisar Mahmood, Nasir Hussain and the bureau chief of Geo News in Peshawar, Mehmud Jan Babar, condemned the attacks on Geo TV offices and journalists and urged the government to ensure protection to the community, performing professional duties.

They said it was the joint responsibility of the PTI and PAT leaders to stop their workers from interfering with the professional duties of the media and media men.

Expressing concern over the repeated acts of violence against the media, the journalists’ leaders said they could not and would not support such aggressions in future. They warned of extending the protest drive if there was no end to such acts of violence. They also demanded a parliamentary probe into the continuous closure of Geo.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, extended solidarity to the protesting journalists and assured them of every support in their just cause.

The PML-N workers, led by the provincial general secretary Rahmat Salam Khattak and Arbab Khyzer Hayat Khan, flayed the PTI and PAT leadership and workers for attacking the media houses and journalists. They stressed steps for the protection of the journalists.

Our correspondent adds from Lahore: Civil society representatives, journalists, lawyers, religious leaders and people from different walks of life on Monday condemned the recent attacks on Geo/ Jang Group offices in Islamabad and growing injustices against the media house. They described a free media as a matter of life and death for a truly free and independent country.

They warned other channels that in case of forced shutdown of Geo Network, they would also be facing similar situation in future. The protesters also criticised the PTI and PAT chiefs — Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri — for leading the country towards instability.

The protesters had gathered at the Faisal Chowk outside the Punjab Assembly to record their protest over the developing situation vis-à-vis conspiracies against the Geo News and the group’s other channels and their possible closure.

Besides the office bearers of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ), Lahore Press Club (LPC), Electronic Media Reporters Association (Emra) and Electronic Media Cameramen Association (Emca), a large number of journalists from other newspapers and TV channels also joined the protest.

South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said journalists were united to foil any move to forcibly shut down Geo. “The closure of Geo is not acceptable to us as the resignation of the prime minister is not acceptable to the political parties,” he said.

Imtiaz urged the owners of other media houses to get united at this crucial juncture and support Geo, saying the prevailing situation was not going to be in favour of other channels in the future.

Jamiat Ahle Hadith Pakistan chief Hafiz Abdul Ghaffar Ropri demanded of the government to ensure that no injustice was committed against Geo resulting in its forced closure. Observing that the Geo management had already apologised, he said discrimination against the media group was unjustified and uncalled for.

Noted Human Rights activist Hina Jilani said she fully supported the campaign for a free and independent media, adding that the rights activists, civil society and lawyers were ready for an extended war.

Neelam Hussain, another noted rights activist, said they supported the freedom of expression and supported the struggle of Geo and also acknowledged its sacrifices.

Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary Information Farooq Chohan said the media owners should be united just like the democratic forces joining hands to protect democracy and the Constitution. “This is a pre-requisite for a free and independent media,” he said.

Sohail Ahmed of Jamiat Ahle Hadith said they always condemned the attacks on the media as the nation could not be termed free and independent without a free media.

Lahore Press Club (LPC) Secretary General Shahbaz Mian said political parties, lawyers, journalists, students, civil society and religious leaders were united in supporting Geo. He said the economic murder of journalists was underway while those associated with Geo were being attacked physically. “These tactics cannot deter us from our struggle for a free press in Pakistan,” he promised.

Manzoor Gillani of Tehreek-e-Istiqlal said hooliganism against Geo was not witnessed in the past.

PFUJ General Secretary Amir Sohail said journalists had foiled attempts to impose curbs on the media in the past and they would not let such conspiracies succeed. “The economic murder of journalists even at a small organisation is not acceptable to us and this time conspiracies have been hatched against the largest media outlet of the country.”

PPP leader Noreen Sial said she condemned the attack on Geo and its journalists on the behalf of her party heads Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. She strongly criticised Imran Khan for instigating his followers to attack Geo and said, “You (Imran) can never be a politician. You are just a cricketer.”

Religious scholar Allama Kazim Raza Naqvi said they had always expressed solidarity with Geo-Jang Group and condemned the attack on their workers, including Hamid Mir. He said the independence of Geo was in fact the independence of people of the country.

Bashir Ahmad Nizami of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan said imposing curbs on the media was not acceptable as it exposed malpractices and corruption of those at the helm of affairs.Abid Mir of Shabab-e-Milli said the attack of Geo and its possible forced closure was highly condemnable and added other media organisations should come forward and play their role to save the institution.

A student Maryam Zulfiqar also came hard on the ongoing sit-ins, saying the so-called leaders were trying to make a New Pakistan by making women dance in the open.Ahle Hadith Youth Force Pakistan President Hafiz Zakirul Rehman Siddiqui said Geo played a major role in making Imran a national leader but he was now spewing venom against the TV channel.

Geo News Lahore Bureau chief Khawar Naeem Hashmi, Maqsood Butt and others also spoke on the occasion.

Our correspondent adds from Kasur: Kasur journalists, traders and civil society on Monday took out a protest rally against the attacks on Geo offices in Islamabad.

The rally started from the NBP Chowk. Journalists Ashraf Wahla, Saleemur Rahman, Zakir Hussain, Mehr Javed and others condemned the attacks and urged the relevant authorities to arrest the attackers forthwith.

Our correspondent adds from Multan: The Multan Union of Journalists (MUJ) on Monday staged a demonstration against the attack on Geo, Jang and The News offices in Islamabad.

The protesting journalists were chanting slogans against the incident and in support of freedom of the press. Renowned politician Javed Hashmi also attended the demonstration and assured his full support to journalists.

Hashmi criticised the attacks on Geo offices and its illegal closure and termed it an attack on the freedom of the press. He also criticised the police failure in protecting Geo, Jang and The News offices when the mob pelted the building with stones.

MUJ President Rauf Maan also condemned the attack and said such tactics could never bow down the journalists. Meanwhile, talking to newsmen, Javed Hashmi criticised the Punjab government, saying that it had focused on photo and media coverage by visiting flood-hit areas, instead of providing relief to the flood victims.

PHOOLNAGAR: The Phoolnagar Union of Journalists condemned the attack on Geo offices in Islamabad. Addressing a meeting here on Monday, union Chairman Kashif Shaukat, President Latif, General Secretary Abdur Razzaq and Vice President Zahid Hussain asked the government to protect the journalists community and Geo News.

HYDERABAD: Media persons of Hyderabad on Monday staged a protest under the aegis of the Hyderabad Union of Journalists here in front of the Hyderabad Press Club against the attacks on Geo TV office in Islamabad.

The participants of the demonstration strongly condemned the attacks on media persons and media houses and demanded the arrest of those involved in killing, attacking, torturing and harassing media persons in the country.

Our Sukkur correspondent adds: Journalists, civil society and political workers protested against the continued closure of Geo, attacks on Geo Islamabad office and thrashing of its reporters. Journalists of Sukkur under the aegis of Sukkur Union of Journalists on the call of the PFUJ took out a protest rally in front of Press Club, Sukkur. They condemned the recent multiple attacks on the Geo offices in Islamabad and thrashing of its reporters.

The protesters said they would never accept an attack on the freedom of the press and said blocking of Geo TV in most parts of the country was evidence of partiality.

Meanwhile, in Khairpur, Shikarpur, Ghotki, Larkana, Nausharoferoz, Tando Allahyar and other cities journalists also took out protest rallies which were participated by PPP, PML-N, PML-F workers besides lawyers and NGO workers.

Online adds: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has severely condemned the illegal closure of Geo News, stating that he believes in the freedom of the press.The defence minister said Geo should be allowed to work with the same freedom awarded to other channels in the country.

Asif added that sit-ins were wasting time and impeding the relief work. According to the defence minister, the government had worked on a war footing to tackle the largest flood in the country’s history.

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