Countrywide protests against govt attempts to muzzle Jang Group, Geo
Black flags hoisted atop press clubs; journalists pass resolutions against media intimidation
Countrywide protests against govt attempts to muzzle Jang Group, Geo
ISLAMABAD: Journalists and people from different walks of life on Monday held protests and rallies in different parts of the country against the burning of copies of The News and the daily Jang, and the blocking of the transmission of Geo TV.
Journalists, lawyers, political workers and civil society activists in their protests condemned the hostile acts against the media group, and vowed to fight against any move to gang media in Pakistan.
Black flags were hoisted atop press clubs. Various organisations of journalists held emergency meetings to protest against the burning of copies of The News and the Daily Jang, and blocking of Geo Transmissions and passed resolutions to condemn the acts aimed at muzzling the media. Journalists and workers of The News and the Daily Jang in Islamabad and Karachi also held protests in front of the office of WorldCall.
All press clubs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and the Potohar regions took out rallies against the acts against the Jang Group. A protest rally against the acts to muzzle media was held in front of the National Press Club, Islamabad. Journalists, political leaders and workers, and the people from different walks of life took part in the rally. Workers of The News and the Daily Jang also participated in the rally. The protesters were wearing black bands and chanted slogans in support of the media freedom.
In Karachi, journalists, the civil society activists and newspaper workers on Monday staged a protest outside the Karachi Press Club and the Chief Minister’s House against the blocking of the Geo transmission in some parts of the country and the burning of copies of The News and the Daily Jang by activists of the ruling party.
The protesters chanted slogans against the government, saying they would not bow before any pressure. They said even military regimes could not force journalists to compromise on their principled stand.
A number of respected journalists, including those belonging to the Jang Group, Geo and the Karachi Union of Journalists, participated in the rally. Among the speakers were Karachi Press Club Secretary General AH Khanzada and veteran journalist Mazhar Abbas.
They strongly denounced the anti-media steps of the government against the Jang Group and Geo. They also called for unity among the journalist community as well as media outlets in this difficult time.
After staging the protest outside the press club, they headed towards the Chief Minister’s House where they registered their protest. They then staged a sit-in outside the offices of WorldCall, which has blocked the transmission of Geo TV. It is pertinent to note here that WorldCall has heavy stakes of an Oman company as well as government dignitaries including Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.
In Lahore, hundred of journalists, political activists, lawyers and representatives of civil society staged a massive protest in front of the Punjab Assembly, condemning the government oppressive measures against the media and freedom of expression.
The demonstration was a great show of unity among the journalist community. It conveyed their dissent to the government and showed that no pressure could stop the media from reporting, printing and airing the truth, regardless of the position or power of the people involved. The participants condemned the government measures restraining channel transmissions and uncivilised action of looting and burning of ‘Jang’ and ‘The News’ newspapers.
The protest was led by Lahore Press Club President Sarmad Bashir, LPC General Secretary Ziaullah Niazi, Punjab Union of Journalists President Rai Hasnain Tahir, PUJ General Secretary Rana Azeem and Geo Television Lahore Bureau Chief Khawar Naeem Hashmi.
Jamat-e-Islami Secretary General Liaqat Baloch, Tehreek-e-Khaksar chairperson Dr Sabiha Mashriqi, workers and office-bearers of the JI, Tehreek-e-Insaf and members of civil society gathered in large numbers in front of the Punjab Assembly at the Charring Cross to condemn curbs on the media.
The protestors were wearing black bands and holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the government and its anti-media tactics. They chanted slogans in favour of an independent media and the journalists’ right to reporting the truth.
Speaking on the occasion, Liaqat Baloch said the government was resorting to undemocratic actions in desperation as it was becoming unpopular among masses. He said no matter what tyrant measures the government takes, the truth could not be hidden any more.
LPC President Sarmad Bashir and General Secretary Ziaullah Niazi said such cowardly acts of the government would not be allowed to take effect as the democracy was earned very hard through a struggle in which the media was a major contributor. Sarmad Bashir said if the incident of shoe-throwing did occur, the media condemned that uncivilised action as well. He said President Zardari’s foreign visit did not go down well with the people of Pakistan which created a sense of betrayal among them at this time of national disaster.
Khawar Naeem Hashmi said Geo had always been at the forefront for restoration of democracy and its principles. He said the beacon of truth could not be extinguished by such acts of undemocratic and tyrant actions as Geo has never flinched away from reporting the truth to the people of Pakistan, no matter how much it has been made to suffer by dictatorial actions.
The PUJ president and general secretary said freedom of expression was the prime feature of a society and anyone who tries to deprive the citizens of their right to know the truth would not be allowed to succeed in his evil intent. They said the protest by the journalist community would continue its protests until the government withdrew all its steps of pining down the media.
In Peshawar, members of the Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) and the Peshawar Press Club (PPC) staged protest on Monday against the coercive measures being employed by the government against the Jang Group of Newspapers.
A large number of mediapersons wearing black armbands and carrying placards and banners gathered at the press club lawn where they chanted slogans to protest media curbs and demand press freedom. Leaders of various political parties, representatives of civil society, minority and business community members and others joined the protest to express solidarity with newsmen.
The protesting journalists from the print and electronic media flayed the government for blocking Geo News transmission and hurling threats at the cable operators to keep the Geo transmission off air. They also condemned torching of copies of Jang and The News by the activists of the Pakistan People’s Party.
The protesting journalists demanded implementation of wage board award. The protest was staged on the call of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Provincial General Secretary Shabbir Ahmed Khan said gagging the media in a civilized society was a crime. He assured the journalists the JI would always support them in their struggle for the press freedom.
Minority leader Dr Sahib Singh said the shoe-throwing incident in England was condemnable. However, he added, it was unfair to place curbs on the media freedom just for reporting the incident.
WAPDA labour union leader Gohar Taj expressed solidarity with the protesting journalists, saying the media was the voice of the people which could not be gagged.
Muhammad Ejaz Khan adds from Quetta: Journalists staged a token walkout from the proceedings of the Balochistan Assembly on Monday and subsequently staged a protest demonstration against the blocking the transmission of Geo News and setting on fire copies of The News and Jang.
The journalists, wearing black armbands, gathered in front of the provincial assembly and staged protest demonstration. They demanded of the government to stop harassing the media in the country.
The protest demonstration was led by Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) President Abdul Khaliq Baloch, secretary general Rao Muhammad Iqbal and others. Addressing the protestors, the office-bearers of the BUJ observed that the closure of Geo TV and setting on fire the copies of The News and the daily Jang had proved that the government was using all its energies to control the media.
“We will not bow down and would continue our struggle for the freedom of media in the country,” they vowed. They termed the action against Geo, The News and the Daily Jang state terrorism and alleged that the government was trying to suppress the voice of the people, who have played important role for the restoration of democracy in the country.
They regretted that the present government was following the footsteps of its predecessor as the former ruler had also banned the transmission of Geo TV instead of learning a lesson of past mistakes. They vowed that the journalist community would foil all attempts of the government and would not compromise on the freedom of independent media.
On the occasion, Balochistan Information Minister Muhammad Younus Mullazai came outside the provincial assembly building where journalists were protesting. Expressing solidarity with the journalist community, he strongly condemned the incidents of Geo TV’s blocking, and burning of the copies of The News and the Daily Jang, and assured that he would discuss the matter with Balochistan Chief minister Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani. After the assurance of the minister the protestors dispersed peacefully.
Source: The News