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Demonstrations held on first day of Eid-ul-Fitr

Senior journalist Hanif Khalid said the NAB should abide by the law but that the anti-graft watchdog had not done that yet. Geo News/via The News

RAWALPINDI: Journalists, civil society, and politicians on Sunday — the first day of Eid-ul-Fitr — continued their protest against the illegal arrest of Jang Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

MSR has been in NAB’s custody for more than 70 days in a case pertaining to the purchase almost 34 years ago of a private property.

Senior journalist Hanif Khalid said NAB should abide by the law but that the anti-graft watchdog had not done that yet.

“Journalist organisations around the world are raising their voices against MSR’s arrest,” Khalid noted. “It’s a request to the top courts to order MSR’s immediate release just like they issued orders pertaining to the [coronavirus] lockdown for the public.”

‘A matter of the ego’

Meanwhile, senior journalist Amjad Abbasi termed the allegations leveled against MSR as baseless and said they were propaganda. “Every Pakistani knows that MSR’s detention is a matter of the ego,” he said.

These protests will continue till the release of the Jang Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief, Abbasi added.

PML-N’s Ubaid Abbasi, who also attended the protest, said: “I pay tribute to the greatness of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman that he is behind the bars even on Eid-ul-Fitr.”

Abbasi condemned putting journalists supporting democracy behind bars. “Our struggle will continue till Hamza Shehbaz and MSR are not released,” the PML-N leader said.

‘Punished through imprisonment’

Imtiaz Taji, another leader of the PML-N, said the protest was a message to the leaders that the journalist community’s hopes were high and they would not bow down.

“Even international human rights organisations have condemned MSR’s arrest,” Taji added.

In addition, PML-N’s Munir Shah underlined that MSR had spread awareness among the masses and that he was “punished through imprisonment” for doing so.

Joint Workers’ Action Committee Chairperson Nasir Chishti said protests against MSR’s arrest were not only taking place in Rawalpindi but throughout the entire country.

International condemnation

MSR’s detention has drawn international condemnation and has been termed a classic example of how free media is being subjugated under the current government.

MSR was arrested by the anti-corruption watchdog on March 12. Despite fully cooperating with the authorities, he was arrested in the complaint verification stage which goes against the NAB’s protocols and standards of procedures.

The arrest has been classified as the eighth-most urgent case in the threat to press freedom, according to Time Magazine.

Paris-based Reporters without Borders, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and various other international organisations have termed MSR’s arrest as an attack on press freedom.

Recently, The South Asia Democracy Watch has written to The White House, the Secretary of State, and members of the Senate and House members of the Foreign Relations Committee condemning the illegal confinement of Jang/Geo group Editor in Chief.

In his last hearing, MSR’s judicial remand was extended till June 1 but journalists nationwide continue to protest against the diminishing media freedoms in Pakistan.

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