LAHORE: Demonstrations against the suspension of the Geo News by the Pervez Rathore-led Pemra continued in which a large number of people from different segments of the society including civil society, religious and political parties and representatives of labour unions and journalists participated.
The protesters said the government backed-Pemra had punished the Geo News unheard that was unlawful and against the all norms of justice. They said such a decision form an acting chairman-led Pemra depicted the government’s intention towards the freedom of media as Pervez Rathore, who ordered the suspension of the Geo News for 15 days, had served Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as his personal staff officer in 1999.
Carrying banners and placards inscribed with anti-Pemra, anti-Rathore and anti-government slogans, the protesters gathered outside Jang/Geo offices on the Davis Road to condemn the decision. They expressed their solidarity with injured anchorperson Hamid Mir and workers and journalists of the Geo/Jang Group. They condemned burning of vehicles and copies of daily Jang and The News in different cities of the country.
PPP workers including PPP’s lawyer Forum, Awami Workers Party, Civil Society Network Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami and representatives of journalists’ bodies including Punjab Union of Journalist, Lahore Press Club and Federal Union of Journalists participated in the demonstration.
The speakers said the government and ‘hidden hands’ wanted to squeeze the independence of media and freedom of expression but their dreams would not come true as the journalists community along with other segments of the society would foil any such move. They said the government should have acted as neutral player in the whole issue but the recent decision of the Pemra exposed the government which muzzled the most popular channel of the country.
The participants included Abdullah Malik, president, Civil Society Network Pakistan, senior journalists including Khawar Naeem Hashmi, Wasif Nagi, Maqsood Butt, Gohar Butt, general secretary of Jang Workers Union, Waseem Babar, president, Jang Workers Union, Rukhsana Nazli, Bedar Bakht Butt, Waheed Butt, Khalid Farooqi, Senior Vice President, PFUJ, Ijaz Mirza, Arif Zafar, Shahid Ch of PFUJ, Akbar Jatoi, Asim Hussain, Khalid Khattak, Shahid Aslam, Asher Butt, Amer Malik, Farhat Abbas Shah, Farha Zia, Mahmood Ahmed, Ameen Hafeez, Rasheed Ali, Ijaz Manzoor, Jawwad Malik, Nadeem Zia, Zahid Ahmed, Fahira Tehreem, Zahid Ali Khan, Muneer Khokhar, Sharafat Ali, Rabnawaz Khan, Rana Shahid, Muhammad Ali Zafar, Raja Arsalan Khan, Muhammad Shafique Ahmed, Tariq Jamal, Mirza Naseer Baig, Azhar Maqbool, Irfan Nazir, Sohail Imran, Idrees Tabassum of Pak-India Forum, Shahida Butt, Hizar Hayat Gondal, Muhammad Babar, Sabir Awan, Adil Khokhar, Siraj Qadri, Muhammad Hussain, Salman Rasool, Saeed Aziz, Tahir Saleem, Sohail Butt, Imdad Qureshi, Sohail Ahmed, SM Aqeel, Akmal Bhatti, Ghalib Abbas, Awais Malik, Usman Saleem, Zainulabedin and Naeem Sarfraz.
Bedar Bakht Butt said the curtailment of media meant derailment of democracy, adding that the illegal act of the Pemra was not acceptable to journalists and people of Pakistan. He said it was the media which fought dictators in the lawyers movement as majority of the politicians remained aloof of the movement until it succeeded. He said democratic forces should keep in mind that if hidden forces curtailed the media independence, democracy would be in danger as well.
Maqsood Butt said the Pemra decision was illegal and Geo/Jang workers would not accept it. He said the Geo News was punished only for raising truth, demanding justice and projecting the rule of law for everyone in the country. He said culprits who attacked Hamid Mir were still at large, which was a sign of serious concern for the whole journalists community. He said all conspiracies against the Geo/Jang Group would be foiled with the collective effort of the workers and the journalists community.
Waseem Babar said the Pemra decision was tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of Jang/Geo workers protesting for the last 45 days against the illegal suspension of the Geo TV network across Pakistan. He said Geo/Jang workers were ready for every kind of sacrifice to defend the largest and most independent media group. He said protests would be staged outside the Chief Minister’s House, Governor’s House and then a long march would be held towards Islamabad. He announced that on Monday (today) Jang workers would offer arrests against the Geo suspension.
Abdullah Malik said the Geo News was punished through a planned conspiracy. He said time had come for the journalists to identify and throw out all black sheep which were destroying the very purpose of journalism. He said the Geo/Jang workers had rendered great sacrifices for Pakistan, democracy and independence of media and again were fighting for the freedom of media. He said the whole nation was standing with Hamid Mir and the Geo/Jang Group as some ‘hidden hands’ wanted to curb the largest media house of the country for their vested interests.
Sirajul Haq Qadri said the Geo/Jang Group was a family of over 50,000 employees and they would defend it against all illegal acts. He said the Geo News made a mistake but shutting down the channel and Jang Group newspapers was not a solution to the whole issue as many made mistakes in the past in this country. “When the Geo News has rendered an unconditional apology, the matter should have been over”. According to Qadri, acts like suspending a TV channel earn a bad name for the country.
According to Ijaz, those Mullahs, who are issuing sermons against the Geo/Jang Group, should have pity on the nation. He said the Geo/Jang Group was a voice of the nation and no one could stop it from informing people about what was right and wrong. He said those who suspended the Geo News were not well-wishers of the nation as they aimed at depriving a large number of people of their fundamental right to information and entertainment. He said by blocking the Geo/Jang Group, thousands of employees of the largest media group and their families would be affected.
Ijaz said it was strange that persons like Mubashir Lucman were shouting against the Geo/Jang Group, independent judiciary and democracy, adding that such so-called anchors even did not know the basics of journalism. He asked why actions against persons like Lucman were not being taken by the Pemra as such persons have maligned and ridiculed sitting judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Farooq Chohan condemning the ban on the Geo News demanded that the political role of secret agencies should be stopped so that media, judiciary and political leadership could get ‘real’ independence. He alleged that agencies wanted to bring the Bangladesh model to Pakistan through such conspiracies but the Pakistani nation had become aware of such acts and would foil any such move. He said they would not allow the government and ‘hidden hands’ to curtail the media independence at any pretext.