LAHORE: The Protest against the ban/suspension of Geo TV is gaining strength with every passing day as more people from all walks of life, including members of civil society, lawyers, the journalist community, labourers and workers of the Geo/Jang Group, thronged outside the Jang, Geo offices to hold a protest demonstration here on Saturday.
The protesters, carrying banners, placards in favour the Geo/Jang Group, and terming the ban on Geo against fundamental rights, said that any such action would be tantamount to economic murder of around 50,000 workers of the largest media house.
Among the prominent persons who attended the protest were senior journalists Nasrullah Malik, Khawar Naeem Hashmi, Maqsood Butt, Bedar Bakht Butt, Sadia Sharif, Ameen Hafiz, Jang Workers Union President Rukhsana Nazli, General Secretary Waseem Babar, Fakhira Tehreem, Shahzada Irfan, Jamaat-e-Islami general secretary Ameerul Azeem, Sadia Jabeen of the PPP, Shahid Aslam, Imdad Qureshi, Zahid Rafique Bhatti, Sabir Awan, Zahid Ali Khan, Ijaz Manzoor, Ijaz Mirza, Farooq Chohan, Naseer Baig, Azhar Maqbool, Sadia Aziz, Huma Mir Hassan, Naveed Aslam, President Civil Society Pakistan Abdullah Malik, Sohail Butt, Muneer Khokhar, Adeel Khokhar, Shafqat Imran, Asim Naseer and Waheed Butt.
Nasrullah Malik said he had come to join the protest as defending freedom of press was the duty of every journalist. He said our (media) victory lies in defending our freedom against all dictatorial acts. Which Constitution allows to forcibly snatch copies of newspapers and to threaten the cable operators to shut a channel (Geo), Malik asked, adding that some black sheep exist in our community which need to be thrown out now.
Allama Siddique Azhar said it was a matter of grave concern that Geo TV is off air as employment of thousands of workers is attached with this largest media house. He said nefarious designs with the help of some other channels have been made to discredit the most reliable source (Jang/Geo) of information for the public only to serve some vested interests.
Bedar Bakht Butt said the attack on senior anchorperson Hamid Mir was not an attack on him alone, rather the whole community came under attack from some powerful quarters who do not want free speech and freedom of the media. He said a planned conspiracy has been put in place after the attack on Hamid Mir to cause unbearable loss to the Geo/Jang Group to oust democracy from the country. He said the time has come to join hands to fight with the ‘angels’ and dictatorial mindset if we want to continue telling the truth to the general public.
Maqsood Butt said by attacking Hamid Mir it seemed that a serious campaign has been launched to eliminate all those journalists who speak the truth and stand in front of all wrongs.
Yousaf Shah and Khursheed Shah while condemning the ban on Geo said all labourers and worker’s unions of the country are with the workers of the Geo/Jang Group at this crucial time, adding that Geo is being targeted only for raising a voice for the poor and the needy.
In his speech, Ameerul Azeem demanded all illegal actions initiated against the Geo/Jang Group be stopped immediately, saying that the media house is the pride of Pakistan. He said Geo and Jang are the voice of millions of Pakistanis and efforts were underway to malign their favourite channel and newspapers which is highly condemnable.
Shahida Jabeen said by discrediting the Geo/Jang Group through such malicious campaigns, some forces want to again impose martial law in the country by throwing out hard-earned democracy. She also asked her leadership to throw persons like Israr Abbassi and Mian Shams out of the PPP as they were dancing to someone else’s tune while sitting in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
Nisar Safdar Advocate and Iftikhar Shahid Advocate said religious elements are being used by some quarters to settle scores with Geo and Jang as this media house always stood against the high and mighty of the country. He said the media along with the lawyers’ community fought for the independence of the judiciary and now the lawyers will support the media in their fight for freedom and justice.
A representative of the Baloch Ittehad said that it was Geo and Jang alone which highlighted and raised the issues of Balochistan. He said the Baloch nation stands with the workers of the Geo/Jang Group in their fight for truth and freedom.
Abdullah Malik said Geo and Jang always promoted truth, harmony, equality, rule of law in the country. He said damaging this largest media organisation of the country means damaging democracy as every one knows that the independent media would not allow any unconstitutional act in the country again. He said all other channels and media houses should learn some lessons from the management of Geo/Jang Group as they accepted suffering a huge loss in the past one month or so but they never surrendered their freedom to the ‘angels’. He demanded that the government should intervene by finding a solution to the whole mess, otherwise things may go from bad to worse.
Meanwhile, the governing body of the Lahore Press Club on Saturday held its meeting with the chair of LPC President Arshad Ansari and expressed their serious concerns over the ban/suspension of Geo TV across the country.
In a statement issued here, the members of the governing body, while terming the ban on Geo as the economic murder of thousands of employees of the largest media house, said that such action against the Geo/Jang Group on any pretext would not be acceptable to the journalists’ community. “We will not let anyone ban/suspend any channel or media house of the country. If such actions were initiated against any group, the whole community would resist the move with full force,” they said.
The participants of the meeting asked the cable operators to restore Geo TV’s transmission throughout the country otherwise protest rallies would be taken out in all parts of the country.
Besides Arshad Ansari, LPC Secretary Shahbaz Mian, Afzal Talib, Farzana Ch, Asif Ch, Zahid Rafique Bhatti, Qamar Zaman Bhatti, Rizwan Khalid, Khwaja Naseer, Mehboob Ahmed, Imran Sheikh and Bilal Ghauri participated in the meeting.