Pakistan:  Popular television anchor banned from hosting his program. | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan:  Popular television anchor banned from hosting his program.

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is concerned at the decision by Geo News to take popular anchor and journalist Hamid Mir off air as it is perceived to have been taken because of external pressures.

According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Geo News has banned Mir from hosting his talk show Capital Talk. In a statement issued on May 31, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said that the media organization’s management should inform the media fraternity what had prompted them to take the decision “within the 72 hours of Mir’s speech in front of the National Press Club on Friday (May 28) where he condemned non-democratic forces for attacks on media persons and Asad Toor.”

Appearing to confirm reports of his removal, Mir said that being banned was “nothing new” for him.

“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 added in a tweet.

According to the PFUJ, following Mir’s speech at the press club “it was feared that the government and establishment would employ pressure tactics on Geo”.

“We would like to know if it was the result of pressure from the government and the establishment or Geo has taken this decision on its own. In either case it is highly condemnable and would be resisted fiercely,” they said.

The PFUJ leadership said that such a ban “flies in the face of the government’s claim of protecting freedom of press and freedom of expression”.

“First journalists are attacked and when media persons protest against such attacks, the government employs fascist tactics to silence them. Hamid [Mir] is a well respected journalist with years of experience in the field. He is the most popular anchor of the country with millions of viewers. Banning him from conducting the program is not an attack on a single journalist but it is an attack on the freedom of expression and freedom of press. We will fiercely resist such attacks on the media and protest against this banning of Mir’s programme,” they said.

PFUJ additionally said that if Geo News did not restore Mir as the host of the show, the media fraternity would stage demonstrations in front of their offices countrywide. They urged the Supreme Court to take notice of the ban and appealed to politicians and civil society to show solidarity with the media in their “struggle against the non-democratic attitude of the government.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also condemned the move to take Mir off air “three days after he spoke fervidly against the escalation in curbs on press freedom”.

“That Mr Mir has been promptly silenced and his family allegedly threatened is now a tipping point for press freedom — and one that will not be resolved through the optics of law making in the shape of the long touted and heavily criticised journalists’ protection bill.”

Meanwhile, in a statement published on June 1, the Jang and Geo group said Mir’s speech had “resulted in a backlash from different segments of society”.

They said the Editorial Committee and lawyers would check for “violation of policy and law” during which Mir’s show would be hosted by a temporary host.

“We would like to remind our viewers and readers that Geo and Jang Group were shut down, our journalists were beaten up as they faced hundreds of fake allegations of corruption, blasphemy and traitorhood, shot at, financially strangulated more than any other media organisation in the country. The organisation has lost more than Rs10 billion to keep viewers and readers informed. However, it becomes difficult for the Group and its editors to take ownership of the content that is delivered outside the purview, input and guidance of its editors, which are not fact checked and approved by the editorial teams.”

The statement said that they shared the “anger, disappointment and frustration” felt by Mir and other journalists regarding attacks on journalists. They said that it was a “grave concern” but there were “better ways and means” to channel the energy for productive results on the matter.

“Too many journalists lose their lives and their liberty in Pakistan while their fight for the right of the public to know continues,” the statement read, adding that despite the calls by rights bodies to protect journalists and act against those who commit such attacks “no respite has been given till now”.

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