By Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2020

ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan’s supreme court on Monday granted bail to the owner and editor-in-chief of country’s largest independent group of newspapers and television stations, months after his arrest in a decades-old case related to allegations of tax evasion in a real estate purchase.

Mir Shakilur Rehman’s release comes amid increasing pressure on journalists in Pakistan by state institutions and security agencies. Human rights workers, activists and members of civil society also have been targeted in recent years.

Rehman’s Jang Group of Newspapers, which includes Geo TV, has been critical of the government. He was arrested in March in the eastern city of Lahore by the National Accountability Bureau. The bureau is pursuing an over 30-year-old case against him over a land sale, one it acknowledges did not defraud the government at the time.

The terms of Rehman’s bail were not immediately known.

Activists say the government of Prime Minister Imran 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 and now considers Rehman’s media house to be one of his main critics.

Opposition party leaders as well have been targeted in anti-graft probes in recent weeks.

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