Media Mogul Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman Granted Bail After Months in Prison

In March, he was arrested for alleged corruption in a land transaction dating back to 1986, an accusation denied by his officials, who in turn alleged that he was targeted by Pakistan's corruption watchdog because Rehman's media group looked into the workings of the agency.
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Police officials escort arrested Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman (top) the editor-in-chief of the Jang Group. (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday (9), Pakistan's high court granted bail to the owner of one of the country's largest media groups, following month-long detention condemned by rights groups as press suppression.

The Jang Group of Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, which includes some of Pakistan's largest newspapers and the Geo television network, has frequently been critical of both the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the powerful military of the country.

In March, he was arrested for alleged corruption in a land transaction dating back to 1986, an accusation denied by his officials, who in turn alleged that he was targeted by Pakistan's corruption watchdog because Rehman's media group looked into the workings of the agency.

“The court has granted bail to Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, he is going to be released after spending more than 200 days in detention”, Rana Jawad, Geo TV’s director of news, told AFP.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Pakistan supreme court last week to order the release of Rehman, saying that he was being held on a "false charge."

RSF added that Rehman's group was targeted because "dare to tackle stories that are supposed to be off-limits"

Pakistan is routinely among the most dangerous countries for media workers in the world and criticism of the powerful security establishment of the country has long been seen as a red line.

Journalists and bloggers have complained of methods of coercion if they cross the boundary, including kidnappings, beatings, and even killings.

Last month, after reporting on the controversial detention of an opposition politician, a Geo journalist briefly went missing.

In recent years, Geo News, which has been critical of both the government and the army, has been faced with many brief broadcast suspensions.

The space for criticism has further narrowed in recent years, with the government announcing a crackdown on social networks and conventional media houses condemning interference from authorities that they say has contributed to widespread self-censorship.