Pakistani authorities on March 12 arrested the owner and editor in chief of the country’s biggest independent group of newspapers and TV stations in connection with allegations of tax evasion in a real-estate purchase 34 years ago.
Mir Shakilur Rehman was taken into custody in the eastern city of Lahore, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said without providing details.
Rehman’s Jang Group of Newspapers, which includes Geo TV, has been critical of the government, including the activities of the NAB.
In a statement released by Geo TV, the media group said the property in question was purchased “from a private party,” not a government entity, and “all evidence of this was given to the NAB and legal requirements fulfilled, such as duty and taxes.”
“This is an attack on the freedom of expression,” said Rana Jawad, Geo News’s news director.
The statement said the arrest would not stop its editorial staff from covering “any story that is on merit and at the same will include” responses from the NAB to maintain reporting balance.
Pakistan is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a more forceful crackdown on journalists, human rights workers, activists, and members of civil society.
Before his election in 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan often said publicly he would have Rehman arrested if he came to power.