Pakistani court acquits TV mogul in tax evasion case

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Lahore: A Pakistani court on Monday acquitted the owner and editor-in-chief of the country’s largest independent group of newspapers and television stations in a 35-year-old case related to allegations of tax evasion in a real estate purchase.

Mir Shakilur Rehman was arrested in 2020 after authorities accused him of purchasing government land more than three decades ago in violation of rules. Rehman, who has denied the charge, was acquitted by the court on Monday, according to Rana Jawad, a senior official at Rehman’s Geo News TV station.

Rehman’s Jang Group of Newspapers, which includes Geo TV, has been critical of the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Rehman was granted bail by a court last year.

Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work. The Islamic nation has witnessed harassment of journalists, human rights workers, and members of civil society.

Human rights activists say Khan, elected in 2018, has failed to protect freedom of speech in Pakistan. Before becoming prime minister, Khan often publicly said that he would have Rehman arrested if he came into power.

In May 2021, Geo TV banned a prominent journalist, Hamid Mir, from hosting a popular talk show after he criticised the country’s powerful military.

Since then, Mir has been off air. Rehman’s TV station took action against Mir after he made a fiery speech at a rally in support of a fellow reporter, Asad Ali Toor, who was beaten up by unidentified men in his apartment in Islamabad. No one was arrested in connection with the attack on Toor.

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