(AP) — A Pakistani television
station fired a prominent journalist
and fired him as the host of a popular talk show on Monday after he criticized the country's powerful military
, according to the journalist and rights groups.
The news comes just days after Hamid Mir
, a journalist, delivered a fiery speech at a rally in support of a fellow reporter, Asad Ali Toor
, who was beaten up in his apartment in Islamabad by three unidentified men.
Geo News TV
did not comment on the changes to its “Capital Talk
,” a five-day-a-week program in which Mir would invite guests to debate current events in Pakistan. Journalists and press freedom
advocates frequently accuse Pakistan’s military and its agencies of harassing and attacking journalists, despite the government’s insistence that it supports free speech.
condemned the ban on Mir and urged Pakistani authorities to protect free expression. “Censorship, harassment, and physical
violence must not be the price journalists pay to do their jobs
,” the organization said in a statement on Twitter
Also on Monday, the Human Rights Commission
of Pakistan condemned Geo News for removing Mir from the air, claiming that the action was taken in response to his outspoken opposition to the country's escalation of restrictions on free expression.
According to local journalist groups that document attacks or violations against journalists in Pakistan, there were 148 such incidents between May 2020 and April
Mir confirmed his dismissal in a text message to The Associated Press
, later tweeting that it was nothing new for him. “I was banned twice in the past,” Mir, who had previously been fired by Geo News, said.
Mir was critically wounded by a gunman in the port city of Karachi in 2014, and his family blamed the country's intelligence service at the time. The perpetrator was never identified publicly.
The move by Geo News was swiftly condemned by journalists, politicians, and members of civil society groups, and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists demanded that the TV station explain whether the decision was made under pressure from the government.
Mir Shakilur Rehman, the station's owner, was arrested last year in a decades-old case involving allegations of tax evasion in a real estate purchase and released months later on a court order.
Toor, the beaten journalist from Aaj News Pakistani TV, later told police
that his attackers claimed to be from the Inter-Services Intelligence, but the spy agency later distanced itself from the attack.
Mir, along with dozens of Pakistani journalists, attended a rally in Islamabad on Friday to condemn the attack on Toor, which has so far resulted in no arrests and police say is still under investigation