Pakistan’s veteran journalist Hamid Mir was stopped on Monday from hosting his popular talk show by a private TV channel after he criticised the country’s powerful ‘establishment’ in the wake of an attack on a fellow scribe.
Mir delivered a fiery speech at a protest staged by the journalists against an attack by three ‘unknown’ persons on journalist Asad Toor on Friday in Islamabad.
He demanded accountability in the attack which was a series of such assaults on media persons who are critical of the country’s military.
Mir, hosting prime time Capital Talk show on Geo TV, was sent on leave by the TV network which claimed that he was still part of the news channel.
The journalist confirmed the development, saying it was not new for him as he vowed to fight irrespective of “consequences”.
“Nothing new for me. I was banned twice in the past. Lost jobs twice. Survived assassination attempts but cannot stop raising voice for the rights given in the Constitution. This time I’m ready for any consequences and ready to go at any extent because they are threatening my family,” he tweeted.
There was no statement from the government, but journalists’ bodies and others criticised the move.
“If Govt/State of Pakistan is not trying influence and kill my case without going against the culprits, then why they pressurised GeoNews to off air @HamidMirPAK?” tweeted Toor, who has recovered from the injuries.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, the spokesperson of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the largest opposition party said: “We condemn such arbitrary decisions against freedom of speech & oppose all pressures to intimidate journalists into silence. We Stand With @HamidMirPAK.”
Journalist Absar Alam, who was shot and injured a few weeks ago by ‘unknown’ attackers tweeted: “It’s shameful to threaten anyone’s family. If anyone has a complaint against Hamid Mir, that person should follow the legal path instead of resorting to unconstitutional and fascist acts.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also condemned the move.
“HRCP strongly condemns the decision to take @HamidMirPAK off the air three days after he spoke fervidly against the escalation in curbs on press freedom. He must be allowed to resume his professional duties immediately and the threats against him investigated,” it said in a statement.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, a leading body of local media persons, also “strongly condemned” the banning of Mir. “We want to know if banning Mir is a decision of Geo or a result of pressure by the government and establishment,” PFUJ president Shehzada Zulfiqar said.
Amnesty International South Asia also criticised the banning of Mir.
“The punitive action of taking @HamidMirPAK off the air following a speech at a protest calling for accountability for an attack on @AsadAToor, severely undermines the responsibility media outlets and authorities have to protect free speech in an already repressive environment. Censorship, harassment and physical violence must not be the price journalists pay to do their jobs,” it said in a tweet.