Islamabad, March 20 (IANS) The Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) has deplored the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the editor-in-chief of Pakistan’s Jang Geo Media Group, and asked the incumbent government to release him.
The CJA is a voluntary professional association for working journalists throughout the Commonwealth, comprised of 53 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North and South America, and the Pacific, The News International reported on Thursday.
“His arrest and detention by the National Accountability Bureau before substantive hearings have begun are contrary to the bureau’s established practice and are being widely seen as an attempt to intimidate the country’s largest independent media group,” the CJA said in a statement.
The organisation also denounced the parallel action by Electronic Media Regulatory Authority ( PEMRA) instructing all cable distributors in Pakistan to stop broadcasting Geo TV, or to switch its broadcasts to a different, less accessible channel.
“In another clear indication of the government’s pressurising of independent media – the Jang Group and the Dawn Media Group – owner of the leading English-language Dawn newspaper, have been suffering since January from a government decision to withdraw advertising as a sanction for their independent critical reporting on government policy and actions,” the statement said.
“The CJA deplores these systematic attempts to penalise two of the leading independent media companies in Pakistan,” it said.
“The CJA urges Prime Minister Imran Khan, as the country’s democratically elected leader, to lift the present curbs on independent media and to establish an environment where the media can work without fear or arbitrary official reprisals and can play its proper part in the democratic government of Pakistan,” it added.
On March 12, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had arrested Rehman in connection with property allegedly bought illegally from a government entity more than 34 years ago.
According to a Jang Group spokesperson, the property was bought from a private party 34 years ago and all evidence of this was given to the NAB and legal requirements fulfilled, such as duty and taxes.