RAWALPINDI / Lahore / PESHAWAR / Karachi: Geo-Jang workers protesting intimidation and unrelenting coercion from the government to silence their media houses with a long campaign that ends in unreasonable arrests and illegal arrests of Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is revived on May 13 (Wednesday) across the country as Remembrance Day for the four journalists who were publicly flogged and given prison sentences for opposing the cruel media censorship of the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq.
As it is today, it is about controlling perceptions and group workers pledging to continue rejecting the government’s design of press freedom, protecting the rights of media workers and the release of Chief Editor Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
At the Rawalpindi protest camp outside the Jang and The News offices on Murree Road, Geo-Jang Group workers along with civil society and political workers decided to continue the struggle to release the Chief Editor, who has been in illegal custody for the past 62 days.
They criticized the NAB-government axis for suppressing different voices including free media and opposition.
PFUJ Secretary General Nasir Zaidi was one of four journalist victims convicted of lashing during the Zia dictatorship, saying Shakil-ur-Rahman has now turned into a voice of media freedom and has refused to bow down even though he has been detained for two months. Rahman will be long remembered for his struggle for media freedom, he said.
He said that the names of journalists who were victims during the 80s dictatorship were fresh in the minds and hearts of people as “champions of freedom” but the dictators who seized people’s rights had long been moved to the trash of history.
Editor Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid called for a higher court to pay attention to the illegal arrest of Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Chief Reporter Jang Rawalpindi Rana Ghulam Qadir, Chairperson of the Joint Action Committee and Trade Union President Jang Nasir Chishti, Jang Munir Shah Group media worker Malik Nusrat, Amjad Abbassi said false accusations against Editor-in-Chief will be dismissed in the first court hearing.
In Karachi, Jang-Geo Action Committee protests continued in Karachi on Wednesday when leaders from political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations gathered to express solidarity with imprisoned Jang-Geo Group editorial leaders and to denounce cruel restrictions by the government federal in independent media.
Speaking at the demonstration, Pakistani People’s Party leader Sardar Nazakat said Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf government was working on its agenda to eliminate truth and dissent from the public and for this they attacked media houses and independent journalists.
Referring to the service of the Jang-Geo Group in the field of journalism, Nazakat said that Mir Shakil continued the vision and mission of his father’s pre-Separation Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman and that he was persecuted. He said that it was the first democratic government called in the history of the country that could not withstand criticism and was involved in personal revenge. He demanded that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman be released from prison immediately and the government should apologize to him for causing severe damage to him.
Secretary of the Confederation of Employees of Pakistan’s Newspaper Shakil Yamin Kanga said that 42 years ago, today – May 13 – journalists were flogged and held openly by dictator General Ziaul Haq. He said that today is still celebrated as a black day in the history of journalism. He said that Rahman’s arrest had added another black chapter to history and ironically this happened in a government that called itself democratic.
Referring to the illegality in the arrest and detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Javed Qureshi said that it cannot be understood how he could be arrested in the matter of a 34-year-old personal transaction that spoke volumes about the government’s design to control independent media. He demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil and commented that no matter how difficult the road, independent media would still be alive because those who wanted to see the country develop and progress stood together with the Jang-Geo Group.
Others who spoke about the demonstration included PPP leaders Sheraz Saleh Tanoli and Sardar Zulfiqar Ali, United Union Secretary General Javed Rana Yusuf, The News Union president Saeed Muhiuddin Pasha and Secretary General Dara Zafar.
In Peshawar, media workers from Jang Group continued Wednesday’s protest against the arrest of their Editor in Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Carrying banners and placards bearing slogans in support of their demands, they demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil and the withdrawal of cases instituted to him.
Deputy Secretary General Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and former provincial minister Amanullah Haqqani joined the camp to express solidarity with the Jang Group. He condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil and called it an attack by the government against the free press. Criticizing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), he said it had become a tool by the government to pursue its opponents. Haqqani demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil and the withdrawal of the case against him.
Arshad Aziz Malik, Editor of Resident Jang, called the arrest of Mir Shakil a victimization and attack on a free press that journalists would not tolerate. He said journalists were flogged during General Ziaul Haq’s martial law regime but media workers were never subject to brutal force.
In Multan, Jang, The News and Geo News daily workers observed protests against their Chief Editor’s arrest and demanded his release.
Lawyers along with trade representatives joined the protest and expressed solidarity with Jang-Geo Group.
Senior lawyer Syed Zia Haider Zaidi, Chaudhry Khalid, Assistant Lawyer Abid Hussain Bhutta, president Tajuman Anjuman Chaudhry Riaz Shaheen and others visited the camp.
Speaking on the occasion, Syed Zia Haider said that ongoing detention was part of the government’s efforts to remove Geo Network from the screen and stop the circulation of The News and Jang’s newspapers. He said that NAB had become a controversial institution. He demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
Senior reporters, civil society leaders, administrators of the media and trade union offices in Lahore deplored that those who claimed to make Pakistan a country like Medina had imprisoned Jang / Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in politics-motivating cases during The last 62 days and he has remained detained even in the holy month of Ramazan despite no progress in the investigation of 35 years of property exchange charges against him or officially registered cases.
They greeted the protest camp of Jang, Geo and The News employees who were formed at the request of the Joint Action Committee and Jang Workers Union for the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman outside Jang’s office on Wednesday.
They demanded the immediate release of MSR and warned that the PTI government could not continue its dictatorial policy by curbing freedom of expression and forcing the economic killing of media workers for a long time.
Those who expressed solidarity at the protest camp with Jang Group employees included Editor of the Shaheen Qureshi Group, advocate civil society leader Abdullah Malik, Comrade Zawwar Hussain Bukhari, Zaheer Anjum, head of the Lahore Geo Bureau Raees Ansari, administrators of the Jang Workers Union office and others.
Shaheen Qureshi called the fascist regime of the PTI government and the worst type of authoritarian government determined to silence the voices of independent media. He warned that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was the first victim in the media to stifle the PTI government, while other owners of the media house were the next target. He said the clogging up of media voices would become an easy target for the ruling elite and the establishment when several high-ranking media houses would be closed or dismembered with a small number of employees. He said media owners must realize that if they do not empower their workers and professional journalists, their own strength will be seriously restricted, and they will become easy prey for the ruling and ruling elite, adding that the Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman case must function as an eye opener for all media owners.
Zaheer Anjum said that the media cannot work for truth without freedom, because the media play the role of watchdog for society.
Comrade Zawwar Hussain said the fake and fake cases against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman must be withdrawn and he must be released.