ISLAMABAD/ KARACHI/ LAHORE: The workers of Geo, Jang and The News lodged protest on Monday outside the Geo News offices in Islamabad on the call of Joint Action Committee of the workers of Geo and Jang Group against the arrest of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and closure and shifting of Geo from its original position to last numbers on cable. In Islamabad, media workers held a rally from the Geo office to the Prade Ground in front of the Parliament House but the police stopped the rally to head towards the Parliament which locked down the gates of Sharah-e-Dastoor. The workers raised the slogans against the government and raised the slogans for release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, for freedom of media and to restore Geo news on its original position.
Earlier, addressing the protest, Secretary Information of the PML-N Marriyum Aurangzeb said the fascist rulers have been imposed on the country who after putting the political opponents in the jail are now attacking the freedom of media. “The arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman is the continuation of the government’s anti-media policy,” she said. Shes aid the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is not only against the constitution but also against the basic human rights.
She said the economy of the country has been destroyed, the parliament is locked down and now media was being targeted. “Selected rulers have arrested the Editor-in-Chief of the country’s largest media house,” she said, adding that the government has arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on the fake accusation.
Marriyum said the prime minister should realise that it was the media which gave extraordinary coverage to his empty dharna. She said the people of the country are with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and this arrest was of every Pakistani and now it’s time that all the political parties should get united. “Whomever you arrest and whatever you could do to control the media, but the democracy know to fight for the rights of the people,” she said.
Marriyym Aurangzeb said the PML-N along with the JUI-F and other opposition parties will file a public petition for the freedom of expression in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) today (Tuesday). She said it was the media power which forced the dictator to leave the power.
The PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar while demanding the release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman said that the present selected government was only following victimisation politics. He said the government has arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on exposing incompetence of the government and political victimisation against the leadership of the PPP and PML-N. “The NAB-Niazi nexus has been exposed,” he said.
Senior anchorperson Hamid Mir said the NAB has framed a false and fabricated case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. “In the days of the crisis, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman mortgaged his property to the National Bank of Pakistan to pay the salaries of the workers of the Geo and Jang Group,” he said.
We have faced restrictions and ban in the past and will continue to face them. “The arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was a black day in the history of media and all the human rights organisations, Amnesty International and RSF have condemned the arrest.
Lifetime Secretary General of All Pakistan Newspapers Hawkers Federation Tikka Khan declared the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman illegal and demanded his early release. He said the country was already facing economic and political instability and now efforts to destabilise the media will further deepen the crisis.
Secretary General PFUJ Nasir Zaidi said that after violating the sanctity of the vote and democracy, the government has now attacked the media.
“With the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman the message has been conveyed to the all the media that there will be no more freedom of media,” he said.
Nasir Zaidi said that with the censorship and restriction on the media, many workers lost their jobs. “We will struggle and fight against the fascist minds and now struggle will not against the puppets but against those powers who put the parliament and freedom of media in chains,” he said.
Editor The News Rawalpindi/Islamabad Aamir Ghauri said the rulers were not fulfilling their promises. Resident editor of Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has faced such tactics and faced the restriction on Jang despite suffering a loss of billions of rupees.
Ex-President PFUJ Afzal Butt said Mir Shakilur Rahman is a symbol of media freedom.
“Those who think that they will supress the voice of media and could bury the truth with such tactics then they are mistaken as now every journalist and worker of the Jang Group has come to protest against the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman,” he said.
Ex-president National Press Club Shakil Anjum said the rulers were vying only for the rule of jungle in the country.
Chairman Joint Action Committee of Geo and Jang Group and President Jang Workers Union Nasir Chishti said restriction on the media would not be tolerated.
President RIUJ Aamir Sajjad Syed said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a personal vendetta of the government. Secretary General RIUJ Asif Ali Bhatti demand for the early release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Ex-Secretary National Press Club Anwar Raza warned that the journalist will launch a movement against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Iqbal Khattak of the ANP said if the media was not free then the democracy was also in chains.
Secretary General Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Haris Khaique said the government intentions of imposing curbs has been exposed with the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in false and fabricated case.
Meanwhile, Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Abid Saqi strongly condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34 years old case regarding private property.
In a statement, he said that the NAB which is often accused of resorting to pressure tactics by falsely implicating mostly those, in the political and media arena, who criticise the government policies, has set another example of victimisation.
He said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, at the hands of NAB authorities without any solid proof and requisite inquiry, as per the law, is an ample proof of victimisation of political and media persons for their criticism against government policies.
In Lahore, the workers of The News, Jang, Geo Group, members of civil society, lawyers and central leader of PML-N Azma Bukhari protested against illegal arrest of Jang, Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and closure of Geo.
The protesters made speeches on the occasion and said no one could suppress freedom of expression. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is the custodian of freedom of speech. Free press strengthens democracy. He was arrested to curb voice of free press in Pakistan, the speakers said.
Protests continued in different parts of the country against the arrest Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and protesters demanded his immediate release.
“NAB’s action is an attack on freedom of expression. Media institutions in Pakistan were going through a very difficult time because democracy and freedom of expression were both in danger. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman never bowed before powerful circles and powerful forces. His career as a brave journalist is a history of free press in Pakistan. He never compromised on the principle of journalism,” the speakers at the protest said.
The journalists and workers of daily The News, Jang and Geo made resolutions on the occasion and said they would fight under the umbrella of Jang for the freedom of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and freedom of media.
Azma Bukhari of PML-N, Rana Naeem, vice president of district Bar, Malik Sultan, Secretary, Arshad Ansari, president of Lahore Press Club (LPC), Maqsood Butt, Chief Reporter Jang, Raees Ansari, Bureau Chief of Geo TV, Abdulla Malik, President of Civil Society Net Work, Shaheen Raza and Haji Ibrahim of Jang workers union addressed on the occasion while Asim Hussain, Ali Raza, Sher Ali Khalti, Faizan Bangash, Khalid Khattak, Amer Malik, Ziaullah Niazi, Amir Riaz and Numan Wahab demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
In Multan, civil society activists, political workers, journalists and people from different walks of life took out a rally against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
The Daily Jang, Geo News and The News workers also participated in the rally. The protesters termed the arrest a conspiracy against the freedom of press in the country. The participants carrying placards and banners demanded release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Meanwhile, the civil society activists also took out rallies in the south Punjab cities. The rally started from Nusrat Road and reached SP Chowk where the participants chanted slogans for press freedom, protection of journalists and release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
The protesters paid rich tributes to Jang/Geo Group workers who were struggling for press freedom and their constitutional right to freedom of expression. A large number of PPP and PML-N workers, including Khawaja Rizwan Alam, Yasin Chaudhry, Malik Asif Rafiq Rajwana, Malik Anwar, eX-MPA Sultana Shaheen and others participated in the protest.
Similarly, a large number of activists of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists also joined the protest and expressed solidarity with the Jang/Geo Group workers. The Jang/Geo Group workers, including Nadeem Shah, Zafar Aheer, Imran Sheikh, Akhtar Zaidi, Rauf Maan, Nisar Awan, Chaudhry Masood, Aqil Chaudhry and others were also present.
An emergency meeting of journalists of Pindi Bhattian was held against the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
The meeting was chaired by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan, president of Pindi Tehsil National Press Club. The participants of the meeting condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and criticised the negative tactics against media.
Later, the journalists staged a demonstration led by Nasrullah Khan. Sheikh Tanveer Ahmed, Asghar Ali, Sheikh Mirajuddin, Riaz Ahmed Shaheen, Hanif, Nasiruddin Sheikh, Jalal Haider Babar, Ansar Abbas Siraj, Shafqat Bashir, Nasir Shirazi, Ansar Ali, Naveed Ahmed Dawar and others demanded the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman immediately.
In Jaranwala, traders, lawyers and the people from different walks of life condemned the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Jang/Geo Group.
The traders leaders, Sheikh Abdul Khaliq, Abdul Zahid, Hafiz M Akram and Malik Shaukat Ali, senior vice president of the bar Syed Nasim Hassan Shah, Sheikh Muhammad Waqas, Irfan Ali Shah, Tanzel Khan, Malik Mohammad Ashraf and Zeeshan Afzal advocates, divisional president of PML-N Youth Wing Aftab Akbar and Zahid Mahmood in their statements condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and termed it attack on the freedom of press. They demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
In Pakpattan, the Grain Market office-bearers strongly condemned the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Jang/Geo Group. They demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
In KP, journalists, political workers and members of the civil society took out rallies to protest the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Jang, Geo and The News International Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
One such protest rally was led by Peshawar Press Club (PPC) President Syed Bukhar Shah and former President of Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) Arshad Aziz Malik.
The protestors carrying banners and placards marched from the offices of Jang, The News and Geo to the Peshawar Press Club. They chanted slogans against the government and the NAB for illegally arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34-year old property case.
The Awami National Party (ANP) leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain and PML-N’s Israrullah Advocate, and members of the civil society also took part in the protest. They criticised the PTI government for using NAB for victimisation its political opponents and critics.
Acknowledging that the Jang Group was the biggest media organisation in the country, the speakers said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was a message to all the media owners and workers that the “selected” government was not ready to tolerate criticism. They felt the rulers lived in a fool’s paradise if they think they could suppress the voice of the independent media and journalists.
The speakers including Syed Bukhar Shah, Arshad Aziz Malik, senior journalist Shamim Shahid and others condemned the government and NAB for illegally detaining Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said such tactics could not put pressure on the journalists. They asked the government to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman forthwith and restore Geo’s transmission to its original numbers on the cable operators list.
The members of the Hangu Press Club and Orakzai Press Club staged a protest rally to condemn the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Carrying banners and placards, the journalists chanted slogans against the government for resorting to such strong-arm tactics.
The members of the Malakand Press Club also staged protest in Batkhela against the arrest of the Jang group owner by the NAB. The protesting journalists said that the government must not suppress the freedom of the press and release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman forthwith.
The members of the Dargai Press Club protested the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded the government to release him immediately. Local journalists joined the protest and raised slogans against the government and NAB.
The journalists, members of youth parliament, traders and members of civil society staged a protest rally outside Mardan Press Club to condemn the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demand his immediate release. The protest rally was led by Mardan Press Club President Lutfullah Lutaf, Vice-president Yaqoob Jehanzeb, General Secretary Mohammad Bashir Adil, joint secretary Shah Hussain, Finance Secretary Parveez Shaheen, trader’s representative Aurangzeb Kashmiri, youth parliament chairman Irshad, Mutahida Talba Mahaz president Abbas Khan and others.
The protesters were carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the government and illegal action of the National Accountability Bureau. The speakers asked the government to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and restore the Geo News transmission to its previous numbers.
They criticised the government for arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman without fulfilling legal formalities in a 34 years old property case. The speakers said such tactics had been applied in the past against The News and Geo only to stop free media from performing its duty.
They added that journalists had always rendered sacrifices for the independence of media and would do so in future. The ANP leader Hamid Ali Khan in a statement condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his release forthwith. He said his party believed in the freedom of the press and would continue to speak in support of the independent media.
In Karachi, the employees of the Geo/Jang Group staged a protest on the ‘Azadi Street’ against the arrest of the group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the blanket ban on the Geo News in the country, demanding the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of the NAB and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s “illegalities.” The protest was joined by the journalist community, representatives of the Karachi Press Club’s governing body, Karachi Union of Journalists, Jang Employees Union, The News Employees Union, Javed Press Union, Camera Journalists Association, Railway Employees Union, Home Based Women Workers Federation, Karachi Bar Association, Sindh Bar Council, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Jamaat-e-Islami and Pak Sarzameen Party.
Participants of the demonstration chanted slogans against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and pushing the Geo News on back numbers on cable transmission across the country. The called the federal government’s acts done through NAB and Pemra unlawful and tantamount to suppressing the voice of the people of Pakistan who raised their concerns through the media.
They said that these acts gave credence to the apprehension that the PTI government wanted to sideline by hook or by crook all the opposition or critics it faced within the country under the guise of its ‘accountability campaign.’ They reiterated their commitment to stand firm in these times when the rulers had targeted the Geo/Jang Group again to satisfy their egos.
At the end of the demonstration, the participants unanimously approved resolutions, saying they condemned the announced and unannounced bans on the media in the country as well as the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the curbs against the Geo News, which appeared to be an implementation on the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s previous statements that he wanted to see the group and its head persecuted. The demonstrators expressed their concerns over the attempt by the federal government to control the media and cutting advertisements to Geo/Jang and Dawn groups in a bid to make them financially challenged. They added that the government has also put the media industry in a crisis due to which thousands of journalists have become jobless and financially weaker.
They said that this situation was not only limited to these two groups, which are critical of the government policies but to the whole industry to an extent of 90 percent. They demanded that all the black laws like the intended social media regulations or suggestions which seek curbs on free voices in the country should be abolished and end to harassment of media institutions through the media courts, Pakistan Press Council and Pemra.
The demonstration demanded the media houses owners to stop downsizing in their institutions, pay their employees on time and release pensions and dues to those who have retired. It added that the federal and provincial governments should act against the contract system employment and ensure the employees’ right to form independent unions at their workplaces.
The demonstrators announced support to the struggle of the employees of the Nawa-e-Waqt Group who are fighting for their rights and asked the government to ensure release of Rs6 billion to cover the dues of employees who have been made jobless. They advocated unity in the media industry, calling for an alliance of journalist unions, owners associations and editors’ bodies for a joint struggle against the curbs.