Home » Hamid Mir controversy: Army vs Media in Pakistan

Hamid Mir controversy: Army vs Media in Pakistan

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Steve Butler of the Committee on Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has warned that these incidents prove that ‘the press has no real freedom in Pakistan’.

Ground Report | New Delhi: International rights organizations have strongly criticized the ban on Pakistan’s leading journalist and TV anchor Hamid Mir. Presenting Hamid Mir’s TV news program has been banned. A few days ago, Hamid Mir had given statements against the army of Pakistan. Only after this, he was taken off air on Monday.

Hamid Mir accused the Pakistani army of censoring the media and harassing journalists. Critics say that the threat to journalists in Pakistan is increasing. However, the government of Pakistan denies this. Hamid Mir said his “wife and daughter have also been threatened”.

Hamid Mir’s program on Geo TV is one of the top talk shows in Pakistan. Capital Talk started in 2002 and has been running ever since. Once Hamid Mir left Geo in 2018, the program continued with another host and when he rejoined the channel, he started hosting the same program again.

Hamid Mir cannot survive without Geo

Muhammad Jabraan, Freelance Journalist based in Islamabad speaking to GroundReport.in said “Hamid Mir didn’t target any national institution. Instead, he warned to expose a particular general and a secret regarding his personal life. I came to know about that secret yesterday and it was really disturbing. That’s why even ISI gave a statement which they never did before”.

Jabraan Further said that “Hamid Mir was barred to host the talk show “Capital Talk”, I don’t think, Geo Network has expelled Hamid Mir from his job. Geo cannot survive without Hamid Mir and Hamid Mir cannot survive without Geo.

“It has been part of the history of Mir’s journalist life, he was banished from doing journalism 3 times before, by ex-PM of Pak Benazir, Dictator Pervaiz Musharraf, and then in 2014 when he escaped an assassination attempt. Therefore, Geo TV administration has played with the situation tactically. And sent him on compulsory leave. As things cool down, he’ll be back and will host Capital Talk once again” Jabraan added.

Why was Hamid Mir’s program suspended?

Hamid Mir anchors Pakistan’s highest-rated popular political talk show, ‘Capital Talk’ on Pakistan-based TV channel Geo News. Hamid Mir on Monday said that the channel’s managers told him that his show would not go on air. Geo News did not give any reason behind taking this step but did confirm that the show of senior journalist Mir will be closed for a few days.

News agency Reuters has confirmed, quoting some officials of Geo News, that the Pakistani army had created pressure to take this step on the channel. The ban on Hamid Mir’s show has been imposed after some of his statements made last week.

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Hamid Mir made these statements during a protest. The demonstration was taking place against the attack on another journalist Asad Ali Toor, who was critical of Pakistan’s army. Asad Ali Toor was attacked in his house by three unknown people. Asad Toor says that the attackers beat him up and also threatened him about his reporting.

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What is the political background of this controversy?

The army of Pakistan has ruled for many decades since the independence of the country. However, at present, a political party led by Imran Khan is in power in the country. But, many people say that the real key to power is in the hands of the generals of Pakistan.

Critics of Pakistan’s army and government say that in recent years, a campaign is being run to silence the people of the media who speak against the army and the government. But, both the army and the government of Pakistan have been denying these allegations. However, local organizations of journalists say that at least 3,000 media personnel have lost their jobs since 2018.

An organization named Reporters Without Borders says that Pakistan is one of the five most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to work in. Just in the month of April, Absar Alam, a senior Pakistani journalist, was injured in the capital of Islamabad by the bullets of unknown assailants.

In July 2020, another prominent Pakistani journalist, Matiullah Jan, was kidnapped by unidentified assailants wearing police uniforms. Matiullah Jaan was beaten up blindfolded, his mouth closed and his hands and feet tied for nearly 12 hours before he was released.

Such decisions are made by the broadcaster himself: Pakistan’s Federal Minister

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had said in the case of journalist and anchorperson Hamid Mir that such decisions are made by the broadcaster itself.

In a tweet on the issue of ‘off air’ airing of journalist Hamid Mir by private TV channel Geo, Fawad Chaudhry said, ‘Which broadcaster has to broadcast which program and what will be its team will be decided by the institutions themselves. There are. ‘

“We have nothing to do with the internal decisions of the institutions. All the institutions are responsible for making their own policy under Article 19 of the Constitution,” he added.

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What has been the response to this?

Amnesty International strongly condemned this ‘action to teach a lesson’ to Hamid Mir. Amnesty has said that, “This poses a formidable challenge to the responsibility of protecting the freedom of expression of media organizations and officials. Pakistan is already in a very repressed environment.”

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Steve Butler of the Committee on Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has warned that these incidents prove that ‘the press has no real freedom in Pakistan’.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has ‘strongly condemned the suspension of Hamid Mir’s program. The commission said that Hamid Mir should be immediately allowed to do his work and the threats he was receiving should also be investigated.

Incident of 2014

In 2014, Hamid Mir was seriously injured in a shootout at himself. Just before this attack, Hamid Mir, in his talk show, raised the issue of violation of the rights of the people by the army in Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan. Those who attacked Hamid Mir, have not been identified till date.

24NewsHD, channel, off air

In July 2020, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered 24NewsHD, a television news channel, off the air indefinitely for the alleged “illegal transmission of news and current affairs content.” Journalists and opposition activists alleged that the channel was being punished for airing criticism of the government.

In August 2020, a group of leading women journalists issued a statement condemning a “well-defined and coordinated campaign” of social media attacks, including death and rape threats against women journalists and commentators whose reporting has been critical of the government.
 
“If the authorities are committed to upholding their human rights obligations, they must take decisive steps against censorship, harassment, and violence against journalists,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, South Asia deputy regional director at Amnesty International. “For that, continued impunity must be dismantled.”

Pakistan among the top five dangerous countries for journalism

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Pakistan is the world’s fifth most dangerous country for journalists. In its 2020 world press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Pakistan 145th out of 180 countries.

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