Protests across country against shifting Geo to last numbers
Commission sought to probe conspiracy against TV channel; people from all walks of life express solidarity with Geo
ISLAMABAD: The journalist community and media workers from the electronic and print media staged protest demonstrations and rallies across the country against the shifting of Geo News television channel to the last numbers in Karachi.
The protest rallies, which were held in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Faisalabad and other cities, were also participated by members of civil society, leaders of political and religious parties, the lawyers’ community, workers and leaders of different labour unions. Journalist leaders from all factions addressed the protesters.
The protestors carrying posters and banners raised slogans such as ‘Jeenay do Jeenay do Geo ko Jeenay’ as they marched to press clubs where the rallies were addressed by union leaders.
In Islamabad, a large number of protestors staged a demonstration in front of the National Press Club. The workers of The News, Jang and Geo from the Rawalpindi and Islamabad Bureau also registered full participation in the protest rally.
The leaders of workers’ union, while addressing the protestors demanded of the Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his government to direct the concerned authorities to implement the directives of the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman regarding the restoration of Geo News to its original numbers.
Addressing protestors outside the National Press Club (NPC), the ex-presidents of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Afzal Butt and Pervaiz Shaukat and NPC President Shakeel Anjum said that restrictions on Geo News were not acceptable.
Afzal Butt said the journalists’ community, civil society and labour unions of different organisations today are standing with Geo News.
Afzal Butt said “Now the law enforcement agencies have claimed that there are no more no-go areas in Karachi. Then how could anyone force the cable operators to push Geo News to the last numbers? The relevant authorities should identify those elements who have become part of the campaign against Geo News,” he said.
He said when the transmission of Geo News was stopped, it paid fines but its transmission in the cantonment areas have still not been restored, adding “Copies of daily The News and daily Jang are also not allowed to be distributed in the cantonment areas.”
Afzal Butt said if any effort is made to deprive thousands of workers associated with Geo News of their livelihood then journalists would be left with no other option except to stage a sit-in on the Constitution Avenue and in front of the Supreme Court.
He appealed to Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali to play their role in restoring Geo News to its original numbers on cable networks.
Pervaiz Shaukat said they would continue to oppose any step which could result in the economic murder of the journalist community and media workers.
National Press Club (NPC) President Shakil Anjum said the entire journalist community and unions would have to unite for the freedom of media. He said others would also face the same situation currently being faced by Geo News and therefore everyone should unite and work together for the purpose.
“It is our common concern because discriminatory treatment towards any specific news channel would lead to the point where other news channels and media groups may face a similar situation,” he said.
The PML-N leader and ex-parliamentarian Muhammad Hanif Abbasi said the present government was committed to ensure the independence and freedom of the media.
He said the government would take measures to implement the directives of Pemra for the restoration of Geo News to its initial numbers. “The Geo channel is the number one channel and it will continue to hold its position,” he said.
Senior journalist Talat Hussain said if there is anyone having any case against Geo News, then a forum is available to fight the matter, adding “The government should take action against those cable operators who are depriving the viewers of the news channel of their choice”.
Another journalist Matiullah Jan said the journalist community would continue to support freedom of the media without any discrimination.
Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) president Ali Raza Alvi said that Geo News was continuously under attack, which was a violation of press freedom.
RIUJ general secretary Bilal Dar said the journalists would continue to fight for their rights because they have earned the freedom of the press after rendering unprecedented sacrifices in the past.
Resident Editor Jang Rawalpindi Hanif Khalid also condemned the shifting of Geo News to the last numbers saying that restrictions on the media were not acceptable.
General Secretary CDA Mazdoor Union Chaudhry Muhammad Yaseen, General Secretary Taxi Drivers Union, President Anjuman Tajran Ajmal Baloch and representatives from other labour and trade unions also participated in the protest rally.
Earlier, the workers of The News, Jang and Geo Rawalpindi and Islamabad marched from their office to the National Press Club.
Chairman of the World Minorities Alliance Julius Salik said those who are trying to mute the voice of Geo News are actually hatching a conspiracy against Pakistan because this news channel always protects the interests of Pakistan.
Waqar Bhatti adds from Karachi: In Karachi, hundreds of journalists, media workers, employees of the Jang group and political representatives held a massive protest demonstration at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) against pushing down Geo News’ slot by cable operators to make it invisible to the viewers and vowed to counter all such conspiracies aimed at curbing the freedom of expression in Pakistan.
On the joint call of journalist bodies, hundreds of journalists from different media organisations, TV channels, newspapers, news websites and other outlets gathered at the KPC and chanted slogans in favour of freedom of expression, in support of democracy and a free media and vowed to launch a decisive movement for free media and democratic values in the country. Carrying placards with slogans and demands including ‘save the media, save democracy’, ‘Geo targeted once again’, ‘economic murder of journalists and media workers unacceptable’, ‘why has Geo’s number been changed’ and demanding the prime minister and chief justice of Pakistan constitute an inquiry commission for probing the conspiracy against the Geo News and the network.
The protesting employees demanded Pemra to take notice of the attack on the freedom of expression. Protesters and journalist leaders termed changing the slot of Geo News and pushing it back to the last numbers on the cable networks across Karachi a ‘blatant attack on the freedom of expression and media’ in Pakistan.
Addressing the gathering at the KPC, President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (Dastoor) Idrees Bakhtiar termed the change in the slot of Geo News on cable networks a clear violation of democratic values and an attack on the freedom of expression and added that without a free press and media, democracy could not be strengthened anywhere in the world. “For this reason, our struggle for freedom of expression would continue as we have done that in the past and this time too, we have taken to the streets for the protection of our freedom and democratic values”, Mr Bakhtiar declared.
President Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) Dastoor Afsar Imran in this address informed in detail of the numbers on which different channels were being rallied by the cable operators and said Geo News had been pushed to the last numbers where it was not accessible in most of the areas of the city. He termed it a conspiracy and act of punishment for the Geo management for not bowing to the illogical and illegitimate demands but added that such tactics could not prevent Geo News and the Jang group from working for the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and conveying to them reliable and credible information.
Secretary Karachi Press Club (KPC) A H Khanzada said although some other news channels were also claiming that they were being equally victimised but it was Geo News that was suffering the most as in the past too, this news channel and group had been victimised for raising its voice for democracy and the rights of the people. He said the Karachi Press Club (KPC) was the only place in the city where all segments of oppressed people had been gathering for the last several decades to raise their voice against injustices, especially in the eras of dictatorships when speaking the truth was a serious crime. But the KPC always presented a platform to every segment of society which wanted to protest against cruelty and injustice in society.
Journalist leader and senior media person Mazhar Abbass said that journalist community had never accepted dictatorship and censorship in Pakistan during autocratic rule and despite suffering heavily, they always raised their voice for freedom of expression, injustice and lawlessness in the country. “Those who consider that by applying the tactics of dictatorial regimes in this era, they can strangulate the voice of the free media are mistaken. We have faced such challenges in the past and this time too, we will resist such anti-people and anti-media acts”, he added.
Former KPC President and journalist leader Imtiaz Khan Faran also strongly condemned the change in the position of Geo News by cable operators and said such acts were not only illegal but also exposed the elements which were against the freedom of expression and wanted the people to remain in darkness.
Another journalist leader and Secretary General of his own faction of the PFUJ G M Jamali addressing the participants of the protest called for a continuous and sustained struggle to achieve freedom of expression for the media and the journalist community saying the forces of evil always try to curb the freedom enjoyed by the media.
Veteran journalist and leader of the PFUJ Khurshid Abbasi also condemned the change in the slot of Geo News by the cable operators and termed it a clear violation of media laws and urged the Pemra, government of Pakistan and apex courts to take notice of the situation and restore Geo News to its original numbers. The demonstration was also addressed by President KPC Fazil Jamili, Bureau Chief of Geo News Fahim Siddiqui, President The News International Union (CBA) Sheher Bano and several others, who strongly condemned the pushing back of Geo News by the cable operators and said it was a conspiracy to keep the people’s favourite news channel out of the reach of people.
Later the protesters dispersed peacefully amid slogans in favour of freedom of expression, while songs and anthems were played during and after the protest containing messages of freedom of expression and the press.
In Lahore, journalists and civil society members organised a protest rally from the Geo News offices on Davis Road to the Lahore Press Club (LPC) at Simla Hill, where the participants held a demonstration and strongly condemned the latest curbs on the news channel in the form of pushing Geo to the last numbers on cable. They demanded the immediate restoration of Geo to its previous position on the cable networks.
The elected members of the LPC, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ), Jang Printing Press Workers Union, The News Workers Union and senior journalists from the print and electronic media participated in the demonstration.
Senior journalist Shaheen Qureshi said depriving the people of Karachi from watching Geo was equal to denying them their basic human right.
Jang senior editor Baidar Bakht Butt said Geo had been attacked again and again since it showed truth to the people and they trusted the organisation.
Maqsood Butt said the staff and workers of Jang/Geo and The News would not hesitate to offer any sacrifices for the safety and survival of their organisation.
Khalid Farooqi said Geo had always fought for democracy and democratic culture in the country.
LPC President Shahbaz Mian said journalists were united against curbs on Geo and strongly condemned such attacks on media freedom in Pakistan.
Noted labour leader Khursheed Ahmed said Geo was the voice of the masses and they really loved their favourite channel, adding that labour union was with the organisation in these hard times.
Former LPC President Arshad Ansari demanded the formation of an inquiry commission to bring the facts to light.
PUJ President Waseem Farooq said Geo/Jang was highlighting the truth and the voice of truth could not be silenced.
LPC Vice President Abdul Majeed Sajid, General Secretary Shadab Riaz and Punjab Assembly Media Gallery President Qamar Zaman Bhatti also spoke on the occasion.
Senior journalists Siddique Khan, Rauf Sheikh, Imran Sheikh, Pervaiz Bashir, Maqsood Awan, Mayed Ali, Gohar Butt, Asim Hussain, Khalid Khattak, Jawwad Rizvi, Shahid Aslam, Wasif Nagi, Jawad Nazeer, Adnan Malik and a large number of other journalists from different media organisations attended the protest rally. In the end, Raees Ansari thanked the participants for extending their support to Geo/Jang.
PFUJ President Rana Azeem condemned disturbing Geo News’ position on cable networks in Karachi and termed it an attack on media freedom. He demanded the government immediately restore Geo position on the cable network, adding that if they had any complaints, those should be sent to the forums concerned, instead of twisting the arm of the cable operators. He warned that the PFUJ would leave no stone unturned to protect the rights of the media workers and freedom of expression. He said their protest would continue till Geo News was restored to its actual position on the cable network.
Raja Riaz, former treasurer of the PFUJ, while addressing the demonstration, condemned the targeting of Geo in Karachi through cable operators. He said the journalist community would stand by any media house facing threats from any side. He said the PFUJ had a history of struggle and the journalist community was united for the rights of its workers and media houses. He said freedom of the press strengthened democracy and any threat to the media was a direct threat to democracy. He urged the democratic forces to come out and join the media workers’ struggle to ensure freedom of expression. He said the PFUJ had called for a countrywide protest against targeting Geo.
PUJ President Shahzad Hussain Butt, while addressing the rally, warned that the media workers were united against any threat to any media house or workers. He said disturbing Geo on the cable network would not be acceptable. He urged the government to avoid such tactics. He also urged the media workers to set aside their differences and unite for the sake of freedom of expression
In Multan, the journalist community, civil society political workers, trade unionists and rights activists strongly condemned the unfair treatment and disruption of Geo News position on cable networks. They took out a protest rally from Cantonment SP Chowk to Multan Press Club.
Senior journalist Massihullah Khan said that cable operators have no authority to change the position of channels. Multan Union of Journalist President Rauf Maan condemned pushing Geo news to the last numbers on cable.
Punjab Labour Alliance Chairman Ghazi Ahamed Hassan Khokhar said pushing Geo News to the last numbers was a conspiracy against freedom of the media.
All Pakistan Anjumen-e-Tajiran Chairman, Khwaja Muhammad Shafiq condemned disruption of Geo News and demanded Pemra take action against the cable operators.
Shia Ulema Council Information Secretary Basharat Abbas Qureshi, Jamaat Ahle Sunnat leader Allama Farooq Khan Saeedi, PPP leaders Salim Raja, Salimur Rehman Mayo, Bashir Jafry, Hashim Khan Babar and others expressed solidarity with Geo News.
In Peshawar, the journalist community also staged a rally against putting Geo News channel on the last numbers by cable operators.
The rally that began at the offices of the Geo, Jang and The News in Peshawar Saddar turned into a protest rally outside the Peshawar Press Club where it was joined by a number of journalists from the print and electronic media, representatives of civil society and political parties.
The rally was led by Resident Editor The News Peshawar, Rahimullah Yusufzai, Resident Editor Jang, Arshad Aziz Malik and bureau chief of Geo News in Peshawar, Mahmood Jan Babar.
The protesters were addressed by Bukhar Shah, President Peshawar Press Club, Saiful Islam Saifi, President Khyber Union of Journalists (khUJ), Arshad Aziz Malik, Aslam Khan, President All Pakistan Clerks Association, and Rahimullah Yusufzai.
The speakers demanded the government to restore the Geo News to its original numbers on the cable network. They said that though Pemra issued show cause notices to 11 cable operators directing them to restore Geo News to its original numbers, it was still pushed to the last number where its viewers could not access it.
The speakers resolved that Geo News had fought against such ulterior agendas of those who intended to usurp the inalienable right to freedom of expression of the people in the past and it would foil all such attempts again with the support of the masses and viewers.
The protesting journalists were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans asking the government to restore the popular Geo TV to its original numbers.
They were also raising slogans against the Sindh government for resorting to unfair and prejudicial action against Geo News.
They announced to meet later in the day to chalk out a future line of action if their demand for restoring Geo News to its original numbers was not met.
In Faisalabad, journalists, political activists, lawyers, labourers, educational, industrial and trade representatives and members of civil society held protest demonstration against disrupting the position of Geo news channels.
The protest demonstration was held under the auspicious of the Faisalabad Press Club and FUJ and other journalist unions. Secretary Faisalabad Press Club JA Tanvir and Secretary Faisalabad Union of Journalists Shehzad Elahi participated in the demonstration. PPP leaders including Tariq Mehmood Bajwa, Mahar Abdul Rasheed, Raja Safdar Hussain, Malik Saeed Sajid, Rana Gulzar Ahmad, Muhammad Yasin, while District President of Pakistan Awami Tehreek Rana Tahir Saleem, leader of Private Schools Association Sadqat Lodhi, renowned religious scholar Muhammad Riaz Kharal, City General Secretary Anjuman-e-Tajran Mehmood Alam Jat, Chairman Council of Looms Owners Association Waheed Khaliq Ramay, President of Chaniot Bazaar traders union SM Ayub, leader of Jamia Ahl-e-Hadith Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Anwar, leader of Umul Madaris Hafiz Khabib, City Chairman of Faisalabad Garments Association Rehman Nasim Bharara, District General Secretary PML-N Muzamil Raza Advocate, former general secretary of District Bar Association Dilbar Hussain, leader of Labour Qaumi Movement Aslam Mehraj, Baba Latif, activist of human rights Amina Zaman, leader of Minority Alliance Lala Robin Daniel, minority leader Ibrar Sahotra.
Besides journalists, a large number of people belonging to different strata of society participated in the protest demonstration and demanded to restorer Geo News to its original position.