This is an edited version of a statement originally published on pakistanpressfoundation.org on 13 March 2020.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), an anti-corruption body, arrested Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, editor-in-chief of Jang and Geo, Pakistan’s largest print and electronic media group. Rehman was arrested on 12 March 2020 on charges of securing illegal concessions in the purchase of plots for his house in 1986 in the city of Lahore. The media group claimed that Rehman’s arrest was in retaliation for their independent and sometimes critical coverage of NAB.
According to the Jang-Geo group, the property had been bought from a private party, and all evidence of legal requirements like duty and taxes was provided to the NAB. In a statement, the spokesperson of Jang-Geo group said that NAB sent their reporters, producers and editors over a dozen notices, threatening the shutdown of the group’s television station because of reporting about the NAB. The spokesman said NAB had through several means tried to persuade the media group to go easy on NAB. The spokesperson stressed that the media group “will not stop any reporters, producers or anchors from any story that is based on merit.”
The Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) said the arrest of the editor-in-chief of a media house, while the case is still under inquiry, appears to be an attempt of harassment for the media group’s editorial policy. The PBA urged the government and opposition parties to look into the matter immediately to ensure that it is not an attempt to muzzle criticism by the media group.
All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) strongly condemned Rehman’s arrest. It said that Rehman’s arrest was “a severe blow to freedom of the press and expression” and urged political, social and democratic forces in the country to raise their own voices to safeguard and protect freedom of the press and civil liberties.
Arif Nizami, president of the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors, said that “the manner in which this arrest has taken place paints a bleak picture of the future of media freedom in the country.”
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) expressed concern that “there remains a strong suspicion that such actions by the NAB are selective, arbitrary and politically motivated.”
For its part, NAB denied all allegations and claimed that it is independently pursuing all cases and have not been asked to do so by the government. It added that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had illegally leased the land to Rehman in 1986. NAB was granted 12-day physical remand of Rehman for further investigation.
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Source: MEDIA FEED