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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Pakistani TV Talk Show Host Taken Off Air Allegedly for Criticizing Military

By Ayaz Gul May 31, 2021

A popular television political talk show host in Pakistan said Monday his employer had removed him from the job for his criticism of the country's powerful military.

"Nothing new for me. I was banned twice in the past. Lost jobs twice," Hamid Mir, host of the Capital Talk political show on the private Geo News channel, wrote on Twitter.

The announcement comes just days after Mir delivered a speech, critical of the army, at a rally in Islamabad in support of fellow journalist Asad Ali Toor, who was beaten by unidentified assailants in his apartment in the Pakistani capital last week.

Geo News did not issue any statement in support of Mir's claims. Officials at the network did not respond to VOA's query about the issue.

"Survived assassination attempts but cannot stop raising voice for the rights given in the constitution. This time, I am ready for any consequences and ready to go at any extent because they are threatening my family," Mir alleged in his tweet, without naming any individual or Pakistani institution.

It was not immediately clear whether the television station had banned Mir under pressure from any Pakistani institution. Local journalists' groups demanded an explanation from the news network's runners.

Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry wrote in the Urdu language on Twitter that the government had nothing to do with the working of any broadcast groups, saying all of them are functioning under relevant constitutional clauses and independently decide to air their programs and appoint teams for them.

Mir was shot in 2014 in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi and seriously wounded. He and his family at the time had blamed the country's prime spy agency, ISI, for plotting the attack, charges officials vehemently denied.

Local and international press freedom advocates often accuse the Pakistani military and its spy agencies of intimidating and orchestrating attacks on journalists, charges army officials and the government reject as unfounded.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the decision to take Mir off the air after "he spoke fervidly" against curbs on freedom of expression in the country.

"We demand that Mir be allowed to resume his professional duties immediately and the threats against him taken seriously and addressed," the watchdog wrote on Twitter.

Amnesty International also stressed in a statement that censorship, harassment and physical violence must not be the price journalists pay to do their jobs. It wrote on Twitter that "the punitive action" against Mir "severely undermines the responsibility media outlets and authorities have to protect free speech in an already repressive environment."

Toor told police his attackers had identified themselves as ISI operatives before assaulting him. Chaudhry and the spy agency rejected the charges as baseless and politically motivated. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and no arrests have been made.

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