Friday Apr 17, 2020
KARACHI/LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Protests against the more than a month-long detention of Jang Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman (MSR) continued on Friday as journalists and rights activist called for the immediate release of the detained veteran journalist and businessman.
In Peshawar, a protest was held against the detention of MSR in which PML-N Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief Ameer Muqam addressed the protesters, noting that MSR had unparalleled contributions as a journalist for the people and the state of Pakistan.
"We condemn the arrest. We also call for the immediate release of MSR since we believe his detention is illegal," he said. Muqam called for the journalistic community to remain steadfast and united in their continued protests against the detention of MSR.
In Multan, the employees of the Jang-Geo group held a protest in which former MNA Jamshed Dasti also took part. Dasti said that civil society and journalistic bodies should continue to protest the detention until MSR is released from the custody of authorities.
A protest was also held at the District Press Club in Khanewal. Journalists, members of civil society — including activists, lawyers, doctors — and others took part in the protest. A similar gathering had been held at the press club on Thursday.
The International Press Institute (IPI) had on Thursday expressed concerns over the arrest of Jang Geo Media Group's Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, noting that despite charges have yet to be filed against him, the Lahore High Court (LHC) denied him bail on April 7.
“The handling of Mr Rahman’s case by the [National Accountability Bureau] NAB is particularly alarming, as it has come at a time when independent media in Pakistan is under severe political and financial pressure," wrote IPI's Deputy Director Scott Griffen in a letter to PM Imran.
“The government has stopped publishing advertisements in several independent media outlets, including the Jang group, starving them of much-needed revenue,” he continued.
The IPI highlighted that recent developments show press freedom continues to be under severe threat in Pakistan and that it was worrying that the “continued persecution of the independent media is designed to convey a clear message – that any criticism of the government and the ruling party will have dire consequences for the survival of an independent press in Pakistan.”
On March 12, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had been arrested over a 34-year-old property transaction. Despite presenting evidence of the transaction, MSR was arrested by the apex accountability body in violation of previous court orders regarding the rules governing arrest of under investigation individuals. A court had subsequently denied him bail, extending his judicial remand.
Various international organisations, including Reporters without Borders, Committee to Protest Journalists, BBC, The New York Times, the US State Department, as well as politicians across the world, condemned the move.
Senior politicians from across the spectrum, journalists from major media outlets and other notables have also spoken out in in favour of the veteran journalist, who, local and international watchdogs believe, is being victimised for speaking truth to power.
Celebrity barrister Amal Clooney’s law firm, Doughty Street Chambers, has also filed a complaint at the United Nations (UN) against the "politically-motivated and arbitrary arrest" of MSR by the National Accountability Bureau.
World renowned rights activist and academic Noam Chomsky on Thursday also joined the growing number of voices condemning the arrest of Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman.
The respected thinker and activist lent his support to a statement calling for the fair treatment of the senior-most journalist of Pakistan's largest media group and condemning the arbitrary nature of his arrest and more than month-long detention.