Protests demanding MSR's release continue across Pakistan

Our Correspondent
Jang/Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Photo: File

LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Protests against the arrest of Jang/Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman continued on Sunday as scores of media workers and members of the trade and media union protested against his incarceration. 

Journalists in Lahore staged a protest outside the Jang offices on Sunday at the protest camp of Jang, Geo and The News employees set up on the call of Joint Action Committee and Jang Employees Union for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

They held a demonstration despite the rain and shouted slogans against the PTI government. They expressed sorrow that those claiming to make Pakistan a Madina-like state have incarcerated Mir Shakil ur Rahman even in Ramazan despite no progress neither in investigations into the 34-year-old property exchange charges against him nor any formal case registered against the veteran journalist.

They demanded the immediate release of MSR and warned that the PTI government could not continue its dictatorial policies to curb freedom of expression and force economic hardships on media workers for long. They threatened to launch an anti-government movement against the government across the country if he was not released.

Those who joined the protest camp included Jang Group Editor Shaheen Qureshi, Jang Workers Union Secretary General Farooq Malik, civil society leader Abdullah Malik, Comrade Zawwar Hussain Bukhari, Zaheer Anjum, Maqsood Butt, Sher Ali Khalti, Maulana Muhammad Asim, Awais Qarni, Khizar Hayat Gondal, Naseem Qureshi, Aziz Sheikh, Shahid Aziz, Munawwar Hussain and others.

Shaheen Qureshi said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was the first casualty of the PTI government’s stifling media policy, while other owners of the media houses were the next target. He said gagging the voice of media would become an easy target for the ruling elite and establishment when few top-ranking media houses would either be closed down or reduced to size with a low number of employees. 

He said media owners must realise that unless they empower their workers and professional journalists, their own strength will be seriously curtailed, and they will become easy prey for the establishment and ruling elite, adding that the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should serve as an eye-opener for all media owners.

He demanded the government release the withheld Rs6 billion arrears of media houses immediately so that media workers could be paid their salaries and dues. He said the government had acknowledged Rs3 billion arrears so far but still not released that amount despite making promises.

Addressing the protest, Maqsood Butt said media cannot work for the truth without freedom, as it played the role of the watchdog for the society and country. He noted that such victimisations were forced by dictators like Gen (retd) Ayub Khan, Gen (retd) Ziaul Haq, Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, in the past, and now media workers were being victimised by the incumbent overnment.

Sher Ali Khalti said Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a symbol of freedom of expression and this struggle is not only for his release but also for the freedom of media. He said everybody in the country who struggled for the freedom of expression was Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He warned that if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was not released immediately, then journalists would stage protests outside the National Assembly, Punjab Assembly and all major cities of the country.

Zaheer Anjum said, “Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be released as his arrest was a symbolic move to usurp media freedom. Already the results were coming out and the arrest was leading towards the crumbling of media itself after the gagging of freedom of expression, which was evident from the closure of noted news channels recently,” he said. 

Meanwhile, MPA Ali Haidar Gilani condemned the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his immediate release.

Gilani visited the protest camp of the Jang Group workers set up here on Sunday and expressed solidarity with the workers.

The MPA said that the government was handling free press roughly, which was very dangerous to the environment of free media in the country. The government’s policies against free press had defaced the country’s image abroad and weakened the public’s trust in democracy, he added.

He said that democracy could not survive without free media and tthe existence of a true democracy. Qaumi Tajir Ittehad general secretary Siddiq Thaim, Ghulam Qasim Aheer and others also visited the protest camp and expressed solidarity with the Jang Group and demanded the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

In Toba Tek Singh, members and office-bearers of the Kamalia Press Club staged a demonstration against the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Speaking on the occasion, senior journalists Rana Amjad, Amjad Saeed, Arif Ghias, Nadim Qamar and others said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was being victimised as he was being involved in a 34-year-old land case. They demanded his immediate release.

In Peshawar, the workers of Jang/Geo Group continued to protest against the arrest of MSR on Sunday.

Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands, the protesters urged the government to release Mir Shakil and withdraw cases against him. The protesters chanted slogans against the government and the NAB for victimising opponents and suppressing the voice of the independent media.

Speaking on the occasion, Resident Editor Daily Jang Peshawar Arshad Aziz Malik criticised the government for detaining Mir Shakil in a 34-year-old property case only to pressure him but the rulers would not succeed in their designs.

He asked the government to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and withdraw cases against him. The detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had created problems for thousands of workers, he said, adding that the Jang Group would continue highlighting the truth and journalists could not be prevented from telling the truth through such tactics.

Originally published in The News