Anti-corruption watchdog acts against Mir Shakilur Rehman over land transaction from 1986
Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau on Thursday arrested a media mogul on corruption charges in a decades-old case his representatives said was a form of retaliation over his media outlet’s investigative programs against the government body.
NAB linked the arrest of Mir Shakilur Rehman, the CEO of the Jang/Geo Group, to a land transaction from 1986. It alleged that he had secured illegal concessions from the government back then to purchase plots in Lahore. The Jang Group includes some of Pakistan’s biggest newspapers and the Geo television network, which has attracted the ire of the incumbent government over critical stories of its work.
In a statement to the AFP news agency, Geo denied the allegations against Rehman, saying all taxes and legal requirements pertaining to the property purchase had been fulfilled. It claimed NAB had only arrested Rehman because of investigative pieces his channels had conducted into the bureau.
Over the past 18 months the NAB has “sent our reporters, producers and editors—directly and indirectly—over a dozen threatening notices,” the statement read, adding that the bureau had said it would shut down “our channels … due to our reporting and our programs about NAB.”
The statement added that NAB has, in writing, “said it is a constitutionally protected institution that can’t be criticized.” NAB has rejected the allegations by the Jang Group as “concocted, fabricated and baseless,” daily Dawn reported.
Pakistani media have been subjected to growing censorship and pressure following the election of Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2018. Mainstream media houses have decried pressure from authorities that they say has resulted in widespread self-censorship.
Last year, global watchdog Reporters Without Borders criticized the government for “brazen censorship” after three news channels were taken off air for covering an opposition news conference. “We call on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s civilian government to take immediate steps to ensure that cable transmission of the three TV channels is restored. The recent surge in sudden acts of media censorship is exposing the current regime’s increasingly dictatorial nature,” it said in a statement.