Islamabad (AP) — On Monday, a Pakistani television station removed prominent journalists from hosting a popular talk show after criticizing the country’s powerful military.
The incident happened just days after journalist Hamid Mir gave a fierce speech at a rally in support of fellow reporter Asad Ali Tour, who was beaten by three unidentified men in an Islamabad apartment.
Geo News TV did not comment on changes to “Capital Talk,” a five-day weekly show where Mir invites guests to discuss current events in the country. Journalists and advocates of press freedom often accuse the Pakistani army and its agencies of harassing and attacking journalists. The government claims to support freedom of speech.
A group of local journalists documenting attacks or breaches against Pakistani journalists stated that there were 148 such attacks between May 2020 and April 2021.
Mir confirmed his deletion in a text message to the Associated Press. He then tweeted that it wasn’t new to him. “I’ve been banned twice in the past,” said Mir, who had been fired by Geo News in the past.
Mir was attacked in the port city of Karachi in 2014, seriously injuring shooters. At that time, his family accused the country’s intelligence agencies of plotting the attack. The criminal was never publicly known.
The Geo News move was quickly criticized by journalists, politicians, and members of civil society groups. The Union of Federal Journalists in Pakistan has asked television stations to explain whether this measure was taken under government pressure.
Station owner Mir Shakir Lehmann was arrested last year in decades of cases related to tax evasion allegations in real estate purchases. He was released by court order a few months later.
Journalist Tour, beaten in the apartment, works for Argy News in Pakistan. He later told police that the attackers claimed they came from the Inter-Services Intelligence. However, the espionage agency moved away from the attack a few days later.
On Friday, Mir attended a rally in Islamabad with dozens of Pakistani journalists, accusing him of attacking Tours. So far, authorities have not arrested anyone involved in the attack, and police say they are still investigating.