Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest: Jang/Geo workers' countrywide protests continue

Countrywide protest against the illegal arrest MSR on trumped-up charges continue in cities across Pakistan

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RAWALPINDI: The countrywide protest by the workers of Geo and Jang Group along with the Pakistan Federal Unions of Journalists, representatives of the civil society and political parties against the illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo/Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and on the curbs on the media, continued on Monday.

The countrywide protests by workers of Geo and Jang Group completed its 87th day on Monday against the illegal arrest of MSR and chanted slogans for his release and condemned the curbs on the freedom of media and also condemned the conspiracies to close down the Geo and Jang Group.

Addressing the protest outside the offices of Jang and The News at Murree Road in Rawalpindi, those who spoke called for MSR’s release and vowed to continue their protest till it didn't happen.

Editor The News Aamir Ghauri said that the Tehreek-e-Insaf failed to provide justice. “We hoped that the courts will provide justice on June 11 like the British courts,” he said.

Speakers including Secretary-General PFUJ Nasir Zaidi, Chairman Editorial Committee Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid, Chairman Joint Action Committee of workers of Geo and Jang group Islamabad and President Jang Workers Union Nasir Chisti, Professor Saaed and other speakers called for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as well.

They said 87 days have gone by since the illegal arrest of MSR without any charge.

They said the government was violating not only the constitution but also human rights by keeping MSR is custody without any charge.

In Lahore, senior journalists, civil society leaders, office- bearers of media unions and Jang Group’s trade union continued condemning the connivance under which the Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had been arrested in a politically-motivated case for the last 87 days without any progress.

They were staging a demonstration outside the Jang offices Monday at a protest camp set up on the call of the Joint Action Committee and Jang Employees Union for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. They lamented that those claiming to make Pakistan a Madina-like state have incarcerated Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman even in Ramadan despite the fact that there was no progress either in investigations into the 34 years old property exchange charges against him nor any formal case had been registered.

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 the economic murder of media workers for long. They threatened to launch an anti-government movement across the country if he was not released.

Those who joined the protest camp included Jang’s Group Editor Shaheen Qureshi, Jang Workers Union Secretary General Farooq Malik, Ishaq Shakir, Pakistan Times News Editor Zaheer Anjum, Maqsood Butt, Maqsood Awan, Sher Ali Khalti, Awais Qarni, Khizar Hayat Gondal, Aziz Sheikh, Shahid Aziz, Munawwar Hussain and others.

Qureshi said the government was trying to protect its own corruption and maladministration. He warned that MSR was the first casualty in 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 badly reduced to size with only a few employees left.

He added that media owners must realise that unless they empower their workers and professional journalists, their own strength would be seriously curtailed, and they would become easy prey for the ruling elite, adding that the case of MSR should serve as an eye-opener for all media owners.

He demanded the government release Rs6 billion in dues of media houses immediately so that media workers could be paid their salaries and dues under difficult times. He said the government had acknowledged Rs3 billion arrears so far but still was not ready to release that amount despite making promises. He warned that Pakistan was already placed in the grey list regarding the freedoms in the country by the FATF.

Zaheer Anjum said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be released as his arrest was a move to usurp media freedom. Already the results were coming out and the arrest was leading to the crumbling of media itself after curbing freedom of expression, which was evident from the recent closure of noted news channels. 

He said journalists will continue the struggle for justice and release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, adding that when journalists wage the struggle for freedom of expression they always succeed and many dictators in the past had to bite the dust.

Maqsood Butt said the fake case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be withdrawn and he should be released. He warned that if MSR was not released then the protest would gather momentum, creating more problems for the government. He said the government instead of tackling the coronavirus and providing relief to the starving people under lockdown was busy gagging the voice of media and victimising the media owners.

In Multan, the workers of Daily Jang, Geo News and The News, traders and civil society activists on Monday staged a demonstration on Nusrat Road against the arrest of MSR and demanded his immediate release.

Office-bearers of the traders, including Anjuman-e-Tajran Gulshan Market general secretary Ch Salim Kamboh, Chamber of Small Traders representative Azizur Rahman Ansari, Haram Gate Anjuman-e-Tajran president Makhdoom Zahid, Anjuman-e-Tajran Usman Ghani Road president Ch Imtiaz Hassan Jatt, Muhammad Arshad, Muhammad Akbar, Imtiaz Rabbani, Muhammad Bilal and Rana Ahsan, visited the protest camp of the Jang Group and expressed solidarity with the workers.

In Peshawar, media workers continued the protest on Monday to demand the release Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

The protest camp had been set up outside the offices of Daily Jang, The News and Geo in the Khyber Super Market. The workers carried banners and placards, inscribed with various slogans to highlight the demand. Slogans were chanted against the government and the National Accountability Bureau after accusing them of victimising independent media.

Protesters vowed to continue their protest till the release of MSR and withdrawal of cases filed against him. Arshad Aziz Malik, Resident Editor of Jang in Peshawar, senior journalist Shakil Farman Ali, Imdad Ali Qazilbash and other speakers flayed the bid to deprive people of the right to free information.

They were critical of the rulers for employing pressure tactics against the Jang Group but said with certainty that journalists would continue to report the truth.

Originally published in The News