ISLAMABAD: The workers of the Geo, Jang and The News on the call of the Joint Action Committee of the workers continued their countrywide protest on Friday against the arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and announced to hold protest rally at NAB headquarters in Islamabad on March 24.
The protest of the workers of the Geo, Jang and The News was participated by the journalists, political leaders, and representatives of the civil society, human rights activists, labour unions and different segment of the society.
Addressing the protest camp in Islamabad, President National Party Punjab Ayub Malik said the democracy could not be strengthened unless presence of the free media and courts is ensured. He said the free media and the courts are supposed to do the accountability but in Pakistan always make effort to put the freedom of media under pressure.
He said he was surprised when the name of Justice (R) Javed Iqbal was agreed for the Chairman NAB.
“We condemned the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and stood with the workers of the Geo and Jang Group,” he said.
Senior Journalist and Vice President of Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) Islamabad Shakil Turabi said Imran Khan always claimed that Geo and Jang group stood with his struggle and when he achieved his target then he arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group and all the journalists of the country stood with Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman in this difficult time.
Renowned journalist and Anchorperson Hamid Mir said though there was a disagreement with Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman on the matters of the rights of workers yet Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman always responded positively and make a way out.
He said if there was free media in 1971 then Pakistan was not dismembered. He said Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah made a promise of free media and we will protect the promise of free media.
Ex-president PFUJ Afzal Butt said the attack on freedom of media was made under well planned strategy and 10,000 workers made unemployed in the tenure of the present government. He said journalists of the country were united to protect the freedom of media. “Those forces who kidnaped and even killing the journalists were powerful but now they were not seen anywhere,” he said. He said the real purpose to arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman closure of Geo, Jang and The News but the workers of Geo and Jang Group along with the journalist community of the country will not allow to achieve the objectives.
Bureau Chief of Jang Islamabad Tahir Khalil said the movement was moving ahead and will continue till achieving the goal of freedom of media. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was not a name of any individual but of all the workers of the Geo and Jang Group.
Secretary General PPFUJ Nasir Zaidi said the workers of the Geo and Jang Group along with the journalists will show on March 24 about the power of pen with their protest. He said the journalists’ history was full of struggle against the military and civilian dictatorships but never compromised on the rights of the workers and freedom of press.
Senior Magazine Editor of Jang Farooq Aqdas said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman will be released as NAB cannot have justification to defend the fake and fabricated case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman.
Senior Reporter of Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir said if the politicians allowed to go abroad for the medical treatment from jail for eight weeks then how could they keep Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in jail just on basis of fake and fabricated complaint.
He appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan to take a notice and release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
In Lahore, journalists and workers of the Jang Group, Geo TV and The News International continued their protests on Saturday against the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a baseless case of property purchase from private party lodged by the NAB.
They warned that if MSR was not released immediately, they would launch a court-arrest movement.
They strongly criticised the government over reports that it was instituting more cases against him after failing to prove charges in the 35-year-old property transfer and exemption case.
Protests are being held across the country on the appeal of the workers’ Joint Action Committee of Jang, The News and Geo Network. They paid tributes to the courage and perseverance of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for facing with patience the unlawful acts of the government, and expressed their hope that he would not bow down before the government in any circumstances.
In Lahore, a demonstration was held at Sir Agha Khan Road (Davis Road) outside the offices of the Jang Group. The workers chanted slogans against the rulers for victimising the owner of the largest media group in the country for exposing their incompetence and faulty policies that brought chaos and unrest in all spheres of life. They were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans of resisting the government moves to usurp the media freedom. They warned that the rulers would ultimately face humiliation in their desire of suppressing the freedom of expression.
Addressing the protestors, Lahore Press Club (LPC) President Arshad Ansari said that history was a testimony that all governments the world over had to face defeat in their attempts to suppress the freedom of expression.
He said in the democratic world, free media had always won its path of freedom against the oppressive rulers whenever they attacked the freedom of expression. He said Mir Shakil had always suffered negative tactics of different governments and never backed down under their threats. He lamented that all previous governments in one way or the other tried to ‘tame’ the Jang/Geo Group.
Geo Bureau Chief Raees Ansari said the fascist regimes always tried to eliminate those exposing their faults and corruption, and for speaking truth against their faces. He lamented that the PTI government, which always claimed to be the champions of democracy and freedom of the press in the past, was now bent upon using dirty and cheap tactics against the media to suppress the voice of freedom of expression. He warned that the protest campaign would be intensified if Mir Shakil was not released immediately.
Jang chief reporter Maqsood Butt said that PTI government had badly failed in providing the basic necessities of life to citizens. But it was bent upon gagging the voice of Jang/Geo Group since it had been speaking the truth and exposing the failing policies of the government. He said that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and NAB had become symbols of oppression against the free media and freedom of expression. Both of them were being used as a weapon to suppress the voice of dissent and truth, he said adding that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had become a symbol of resistance and free media in the country. He said the more the rulers would victimise the, Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief, the more he would gain popularity and success.
Geo Lahore Senior Reporter Zahid Sherwani said that arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a false case was aimed at terrorising the journalist community. He said the history would remember Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman with the likes of big names of freedom of expression field in the Subcontinent like Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar and Agha Shorish Kashmiri etc. He said the government used NAB to target Jang Group, as it had been the largest media group in the country.
He alleged that the PTI government wanted to have news and views of its own choice from the media and was misusing NAB to blackmail the media groups. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had been the voice of freedom of press in the past, and he would continue to brave the victimisation by the PTI government and he would emerge from his current incarceration as a hero of the freedom of expression in Pakistan.
Ziaul Haq Naqshbandi said workers of Jang/The News/ Geo Groups stood behind their editor-in-chief. They had taken upon themselves to prove to be torch-bearers of freedom of expression as well as for their livelihood, since the government had also attacked them financially by clamping down their sources of income.
Former Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board and senior leader of Pakistan People’s Party Asif Hashmi has termed the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman a highly unjust act.
Talking to The News here on Saturday, Hashmi, who himself remained in NAB custody for nearly one and a half years, said the NAB arrest procedure is highly questionable as neither it has any audit expert nor any experienced team.
He said the questions asked by NAB officials are humorous. They put a detainee under judicial remand in which he has to spend a longer period. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a person of integrity and a reflection of the country’s honour, adding that his father Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman had rendered great services for Pakistan in the struggle for the freedom of expression.
Jamaat-e-Islami Naib Ameer Liaquat Baloch has asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to immediately release Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, admit his mistake in allowing the NAB to arrest him and offer an apology to the entire media of the country.
Talking to the media on Saturday, Baloch said Imran Khan must ensure freedom of expression and independence of media houses in the country. He said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman under a flimsy time-barred case by the NAB is not just his personal arrest but also amounts to detaining the entire media and gagging the freedom of expression. After the NAB and the PTI government faced embarrassment in proving a plot transfer case against him, they are now out to justify the arrest by lodging new cases which are nothing but to add insult to injury, he said.
Newspaper: The News