Pakistan: Top South Asian journalists' body condemns arrest of Jang-Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman
New Delhi/IBNS: Leading editors and media professionals from South Asia have protested against the arrest of Jang-Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“The preoccupation of the world public and opinion makers with the COVID-19 pandemic has made it easier for those who want to try and gag critics in the media,” said the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN), which is anchored by co-convenors from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in a statement.
While the harassment and imprisonment of journalists has been a distressing trend in all the countries of South Asia over the past few years, SAMDEN said, “we have seen a sudden escalation in such actions over the past few weeks”. It described the actions against Rahman as “representative of a trend across the region”.
Mir Shakilur Rahman is the chief editor and proprietor of Pakistan’s largest media group, encompassing The News, Jang and Geo TV. The action against him is based on a 34-year old property transaction. Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau detained Rahman, in violation of its own rules that do not allow arrest at the stage of verification.
“The authorities appear to be dragging this case out to teach the media a lesson,” says SAMDEN.
Rahman’s arrest and detention follows a string of attacks on him and on his media group and its journalists by the Pakistani authorities and non-state elements over the past years.
Organisations such as Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch and Association of International Broadcasters have denounced this latest action, the body said in the statement.
Urgent appeals have been filed for his release to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
Meanwhile, demanding his release, a veteran journalist has launched a campaign by observing a hunger strike at the Lahore Press Club.
A feeble 65-year-old Azhar Munir, who has a long history of waging protest campaigns for the release of ‘prisoners of conscience’ inside and outside the country, is on a hunger strike now since March 29, 2020, The News International reported.
Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested on 12 March by the NAB in Pakistan in a case concerning a property transaction that dates back 34 years to 1986.