WAN-IFRA urges immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman

Orchestrated harassment against an independent media organization

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In a letter to Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum called for the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman while the decision on whether to take his case to trial is made
In a letter to Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum called for the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman while the decision on whether to take his case to trial is made

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested on 12 March 2020 by the National Accountability Bureau in relation to unproven events dating back to a land purchase made some 34 years ago. The bureau alleges that Rahman illegally leased land from the government of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in 1986 and proceeded to have ownership transferred to him in 2016, when Sharif again headed the government.

Rahman denies the allegations and claims the property was acquired via a private transaction. We reiterate similar concerns to those raised in recent weeks by opposition politicians, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and international media freedom organisations in questioning the independence of the National Accountability Bureau by denouncing what appear to be politicised moves to silence a critical voice and further stifle press freedom in the country.

In the context of wider claims of official pressure and intimidation against Jang Media Group employees, as well as reported threats to use the media regulator to shut down its television channels, the arrest of Rahman is particularly alarming as it fits to a pattern of orchestrated harassment against a critical independent media organisation.

Furthermore, the ongoing suspension of official government advertising to Jang Media Group outlets and other independent titles around the country is having a highly detrimental effect, threatening the financial stability of media that were already suffering under the present economic climate and leading to retrenchments and downsizing.

In its letter, WAN-IFRA reminded the Pakistani authorities that the withholding of official advertising, or the preferential treatment or favouring of some media above others based on their relationship to those in power, is a form of soft censorship. This practice has a deleterious effect to the health and viability of the media ecosystem and is the antithesis to transparent, democratic governance in support of a free press.

In the context of the current global Covid-19 outbreak, WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum urge the prime minister to support media plurality and ensure public measures strengthen rather than hinder the work of the independent press.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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