ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz said Sunday he stood with journalists and that he joined their protest against Jang Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to show “support, understand, and relate to your challenges”.
Faraz arrived at the Parliament House area to join journalists protesting on the World Press Freedom Day — May 3 — against MSR’s arrest. Addressing the gathering, he said: “Unfortunately, this sacred profession never got the recognition it deserved.”
He noted that many of the participating journalists’ “peers in the past and your colleagues now” had been there in various situations and in every condition whether it be an issue that concerns Pakistan, the world, Kashmir, public rights or political struggle.
“The first and foremost group [I hold dear] is my journalists brethren,” he said, adding that it is common knowledge that he hails from a family of writers and is the son of famed Pakistani poet Ahmed Faraz.
“Just as my father belonged to your tribe, in this respect, I believe that I too am a part of your tribe.”
‘Govt is acting too stoneheartedly’?
“I’m now in a position where I have to take care of you and also maintain a balance with the government’s policies — one that does not cost either party,” the minister added.
Faraz noted that although all professions were important, there was none more so in the government’s eye than that of the media, who “are important and part of the political and social culture”.
He praised the journalist community’s role in the coronavirus pandemic, saying what the media personnel did was “commendable”.
“Some of the speeches give the impression that the government is acting too stoneheartedly. But the difference between the incumbent and prior regimes has been that Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his heart, has always stood with those who are economically challenged,” he said, adding that by no means are journalists weak in any sense of the word.
‘Look at my background’
“He’s working for those suffering financially and there have been some parties criticising him for that because this is the first prime minister who has stood with the economically challenged group,” the minister added, referring to the Ehsaas Programme.
“Now that I’ve been given this honour, my most important work will be to be your counsel for your welfare.
“I have read your demands and I have met a few leaders of your organisations and bodies. But because I have only recently joined [the ministry] I do not wish to make any promises that I may not be able to fulfil.
“My goal of coming here today was to stand with you wholeheartedly, show you support, understand, and relate to your challenges. I reiterate: look at my background, I can never even begin to think of anything against your interests.”
Javed Latif, Rehman Malik join protest
Various politicians, including PML-N leader Mian Javed Latif and PPP Senator Rehman Malik, also joined the media personnel in their protest organised by the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ).
Former secretary-general of the Pakistan Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Zia Shamsi addressed the protest as well, saying history was repeating itself as there were many “old faces in the current government”.
“Has [Prime Minister] Imran Khan forgotten that when he was protesting here at the D-Chowk, these journalists wrote about him” and his Azadi March back in 2014, Shamsi said.
‘Will continue to expose the liars’
“Has Imran Khan forgotten to raise his voice for the freedom of the press?”
Journalist and host of Geo News talk show Capital Talk, Hamid Mir, also spoke at the protest, noting that power was something fickle and transient.
“Don’t assume that we’re weak. We will continue to expose the liars,” Mir said.
Geo News’ senior journalist Asif Ali Bhatti also addressed the demonstrators, stressing that all the journalists would break their fasts outside the Parliament House and stay there.
“Until and unless our 10-point agenda is not accepted, we journalists will not end our protest,” Bhatti said.