A Pakistani television station has removed a prominent journalist as host of a popular talk show after he criticised the country’s powerful military.
The development comes just days after the journalist, Hamid Mir, made a fiery speech at a rally in support of a fellow reporter, Asad Ali Toor, who was beaten up by three unidentified men in his flat in Islamabad.
Geo News TV did not comment on the changes regarding its Capital Talk, a five-days-a-week programme during which Mr Mir would invite guests to debate current events in the country.
Journalists and press freedom advocates often accuse Pakistan’s military and its agencies of harassing and attacking journalists. The government insists it supports freedom of speech.
Local journalists’ groups, which document attacks or violations against journalists in Pakistan, say the period from May 2020 to April 2021 saw 148 such attacks.
Mr Mir confirmed his removal and later tweeted that it was nothing new for him. “I was banned twice in the past,” said Mr Mir, who had also in the past been fired by Geo News.
Mr Mir was attacked in 2014 in the port city of Karachi, when a gunman critically wounded him. His family at the time blamed the country’s intelligence service for orchestrating the attack. The perpetrator was never publicly known.
Geo News’s move drew swift condemnation from journalists, politicians, and members of civil society groups. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists asked the TV station to explain whether the step was taken under government pressure.
The station’s owner, Mir Shakilur Rehman, was arrested last year in a decades-old case related to allegations of tax evasion in a property purchase. He was freed months later on a court order.
Mr Toor, the journalist beaten in his home, works for the Aaj News Pakistani TV. He later told police his attackers claimed they were from the Inter-Services Intelligence. However, the spy agency distanced itself from the attack days later.
On Friday, Mr Mir along with dozens of Pakistani journalists attended a rally in Islamabad to condemn the attack on Mr Toor. So far, authorities have not arrested anyone in connection with the attack and police say they are still investigating.