The Public Media Alliance calls for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s immediate release following his arbitrary arrest 55 days ago.

On Wednesday, employees from across the Geo and Jang groups joined protests alongside a cross-section of Pakistan’s civil society, media and political workers calling for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s unconditional release from detention.

The arbitrary nature of Rahman’s arrest has been widely condemned as being part of a systematic campaign to curtail independent media and freedom of expression in Pakistan. It is widely believed that the arrest was due the media group’s criticism of the current government and independent editorial policy.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested on 12 March in relation to unproven allegations about property transactions dating back to 1986. PMA understands that the conditions he is being held in are of grave concern.

According to a joint statement, endorsed by prominent human rights groups, journalists and academics worldwide, the arrest took place without a free trial and as of Monday 4 May, no charges had been framed against him. The statement goes on to explain that despite his willingness to cooperate with authorities, Rahman has been held “practically in solitary confinement” since his arrest.

Read more: EU raises issue of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest with Pakistani authorities

In a statement to the Public Media Alliance in March, Jang Group Managing Director, Shahrukh Hasan, said:

Imran Khan’s PTI government has taken several measures to browbeat independent media into submission. He has used financial strangulation – suspended advertising, withheld past due payments and cut advertising rates – as well as tried to establish special courts to ‘regulate’ the media. So severe has been the pressure that journalists have started resorting to self-censorship. 

In the case of Geo and Jang group particularly, the pressure has been relentless. Given the threats hurled by electronic media regulator PEMRA, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and indeed the Prime Minister himself, some action was inevitable. The arrest of Mr Rahman was still shocking because the charge was so flimsy and the procedure such blatant violation of so many laws.

The Public Media Alliance condemns the ongoing detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and calls for his immediate release. With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, citizens need trusted, strong media houses led by experienced journalists that are prepared to probe government actions and ask the questions that will help save lives.

Read our letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan

Header Image: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the owner, CEO and Editor in Chief of Geo TV and the Jang Media Group. Credit: Geo