RAWALPINDI: The workers of Geo, Jang and The News along with representatives of civil society, political workers continued their countrywide protest on the 54th day against the illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Shakil-Ur-Rahman and pledged to continue their struggle till his release. Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands, the participants chanted slogans, demanding the immediate release of Mir Shakil and the withdrawal of cases against him.
Addressing the protest outside the offices of Jang and The News at the Murree Road in Rawalpindi, Secretary General Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Nasir Zaidi said the journalists through their countrywide protests have given a clear message to the government that there will be no compromise on the freedom of media. He said: “We have given sacrifices for the freedom of press and are ready to render further sacrifices for it but will not let anyone to mute our voices.” The former president PFUJ, Afzal Butt, said conspiracies were always hatched against the Jang Group but the resistance of the Group’s workers always foiled the attempts to shut down the Geo News, dailies Jang and The News. He said the workers of the group are backed by international journalists and human rights organisations who are watching the entire episode with serious concern. The Chairman Joint Action Committee and President Jang Workers Union Nasir Chisti said the struggle for the freedom of press will continue till the goal of freedom of media is achieved. The chief reporter Jang, Rana Ghulam Qadir, said Mir Shakil’s resolute struggle and his personal sacrifices for an independent media will go down in history in golden words.
Secretary General RIUJ and senior correspondent of Geo News Asif Ali Bhatti said the peaceful protests of workers of Geo and Jang Group should not taken as a weakness. “We believe in peaceful protest which is our strength,” he said and added the time is not far away when we will achieve our constitutional rights to free speech.
Senior correspondent of The News Asim Yasin and media worker of daily Jang Munir Shah said the Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group has become an icon for the freedom of press. Strongly criticising his persecution, they said this is for the first time since ’80s that a journalist has been put under arrest and it is particularly concerning that it has happened under a democratic dispensation.
In Karachi, student bodies joined the protest by the Jang-Geo Action Committee in demanding liberation of media from excessive and draconian restrictions and the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Condemning the federal government for muzzling the independent media, the Muslim Students Federation’s general secretary, South, Shahid Tanoli, said that an independent media was the only trustworthy awareness generating element in a free and democratic society. He said that the Jang-Geo Group always paid for its commitment to mirror the ground realities, which has this time led to the uncalled-for and unjust arrest of the group’s editor-in-chief.
The News Union General Secretary, Dara Zafar, said that the “NAB-Niazi nexus” had added another painful chapter in the history of attacks against the freedom of expression. He said that it was a blow to democracy that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was languishing in jail for the past 54 days. Zafar reminded Prime Minister Imran Khan of his lavish praises for the Jang-Geo Group before coming into power and said but quickly picked up cudgel against the very media house that exposed his government’s ineptitude and corruption. Zafar said first the government tried to cripple the media financially turning the media workers jobless and without salaries for extended periods. He demanded immediate release of advertisement arrears running into billions of rupees and abolishing trumped up charges Rahman. Others who spoke at the demonstration included All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation secretary general Shakil Yamin Kanga, Javed Press Union general secretary Rana Yusuf, The News Union president Saeed Muhiuddin Pasha and MSF Information Secretary Nadir Khan.
In Peshawar, the workers of Jang, Geo and The News continued their protest for the 54th consecutive day against the arrest of their Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman outside their offices on Tuesday. Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands, the participants chanted slogans demanding the immediate release of Mir Shakil and the withdrawal of cases against him.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) provincial spokesman Abdul Jalil Jan who visited the camp to extend solidarity with the Jang Group workers, condemned Rahman’s illegal detention in a three-decade-old property case.
Journalists Arshad Aziz Malik, Shakeel Farman Ali and others in their separate speeches condemned detention of Mir Shakil. They posed a question as to what type of democracy was this where the independent press was being strangulated. They asked the chief justice of the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of Mir Shakil’s case and provide him justice.
Also in Lahore, the Jang-Geo Group workers staged a protest for the release of their Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman who has been arrested unfairly by the NAB. They were joined by a large number of workers along with representatives of civil society and labour leaders. Holding placards, they chanted slogans asking the government to free Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and pledged they would never give up their effort to bring the truth to the fore and would remain at war with the authorities until they set Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman free.
“We expect the court to treat Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s case fairly,” said President Lahore Press Club Arshad Ansari, in his speech on the occasion. Shaheen Qureshi, a veteran in Jang Group, said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has a long history of standing up for freedom of expression. “The Jang-Geo Group faced clampdowns in the past but this government has broken all records of suppression,” he said. Abdullah Malik, president Civil Society Network, condemned the government for its high-handed approach and called it a bid to muzzle the media’s voice. Labour leader Niaz Khan also addressed the rally and flayed the coercive tactics of the government to control media.
Similarly in Multan, the civil society activists and the Multan Union of Journalists members condemned the arrest of group’s Editor-in-Chief. A delegation of MUJ led by Shafqat Butha visited the protest camp and expressed solidarity with the Daily Jang, Geo News and The News workers.
Likewise in Bahawalpur, the Geo News, daily Jang, and The News workers action committee members, Bahawalpur Union of Journalists and Bahawalpur Press Club members continued their weeks’ long protests for muzzling the independent media and for stopping the persecution of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Newspaper: The News