Islamabad, Pakistan – Prominent Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir was fired a few days after speaking out against the country’s army in a protest against the attack on another journalist.
Mir told Al Jazeera that he was informed that he will not host “Capital Talk” on Geo News as of Monday evening.
“Geo’s management just told me I wouldn’t host the show,” Mir said.
“It simply came to our notice then [after the statements at the protest last week]. They didn’t say who it came from. “
By specifying a reason for the move, Geo News management confirmed to Al Jazeera that Mir had been removed from the air and would not be his host.
Informed sources told Al Jazeera that Geo News had been “pressured to fire [Mir]”.
Last week, Pakistani independent journalist Asad Ali Toor, known for his critical coverage of the country’s government and military, was attacked at his home in Islamabad by three unidentified men, who beat him and warned him about his work.
In his speech in protest of the attack on Islamabad on Friday, Mir had threatened to identify those responsible for a series of recent attacks on journalists in Pakistan. He used various terms involving the participation of the Pakistani army and appointed General Qamar Javed Bajwa, head of the Pakistani army.
“If you’re breaking into our houses to attack us, well, we can’t get into your houses because you have tanks and guns, but we can make things public, things inside your houses,” he said. I look at the protest, alluding to military involvement.
In 2014, Mir survived an attack by unidentified gunmen shortly after hosting an episode of his program that focused on alleged rights violations by the army in southwestern Balochistan province.
“The space is completely reduced. In fact, I would say it’s over. You are not even allowed to express yourself while on duty, ”said Iqbal Khattak, a representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Pakistan and head of the Freedom Network media rights group, in response to the withdrawal of Mir.
“I think he gave us the reason that the state and the government were pushing to influence the editorial independence of certain media.”
Khattak said the threats against journalists were specifically aimed at those who reported critically on the government and the army.
“Journalists who are critical of government policies are under pressure and those who say ‘everything is fine’ have no problems with their safety and security.”
Toor, who was attacked on Wednesday, said in a police report that one of his assailants identified himself as a member of the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), the country’s top intelligence agency.
On Saturday, the Pakistani government described the accusation as a “well-thought-out conspiracy.”
The Pakistani military has ruled the country directly for about half of its 74-year history, and critics say it continues to exercise control over many aspects of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.
In 2019, a Al Jazeera research found that journalists, editors and managers of news organizations across the country reported that the government and the military were censoring their work through the goal of their news organizations through financial means.
In July 2020, Matiullah, great TV news presenter she was kidnapped from outside a school in Islamabad. Jan said he was blindfolded, gagged, tied up and assaulted by unidentified attackers during 12 hours of detention.
In April, senior journalist Absar Alam was shot in the abdomen while out for a walk in Islamabad. Alam survived the attack, with a lone attacker seen in security cameras fleeing the scene.
No arrests have been made in either case.
In January, the BBC was forced to stop issuing an Urdu daily newsletter due to “interference” in its editorial content.
– BBC News Urdu (BCBBCUrdu) January 15, 2021
“The Pakistani media, which has a long tradition of being very much alive, has become a priority target for the country’s ‘deep state’, a euphemism for the army and the ISI … and the significant degree of control they exercise over the civilian executive, ”says RSF, media rights watchdog.
“The influence of this military ‘establishment’, which cannot support independent journalism, has increased dramatically since Imran Khan became prime minister in July 2018.”
Pakistan ranks ninth on the Committee to Protect the Global Impunity Index for Journalists, with at least 15 unresolved killings of journalists.
In 2021, the country ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF’s global press freedom index.
The government denies involvement in attacks on journalists or press censorship, and Prime Minister Khan often repeats his claim that the media in Pakistan are independent.
Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera, but last week denied the existence of press censorship in the country, while also accusing journalists of fabricating claims of attack “to obtain immigration” to other countries.