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Journalism Under Fire
After Attack on Journalist, Pakistan's Media Battles its Military

One of Pakistan’s best-known journalist, Hamid Mir, was shot six times while being driven from the airport to his office in Karachi on Saturday. Mir’s family, and subsequently his TV channel, Geo, laid the blame squarely on Pakistan’s powerful military-run intelligence agency, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).

In response to the channel’s accusations, the Ministry of Defense demanded that the government shut down the channel, which is the country’s most widely-watched. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Mir survived the attack and is being treated for gunshot wounds to the chest and shoulder. But as he was still receiving emergency treatment, Geo prominently broadcast heated accusations from Mr. Mir’s brother, the journalist Amir Mir, who accused the ISI of being responsible for the attack. […]

On Tuesday, evidently, the generals decided they had had enough criticism.

In a four-page letter to the state-run Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the Defense Ministry not only asked for Geo’s broadcasting license to be revoked, but called for the body to initiate criminal proceedings against Geo editors and management.

The ISI has a reputation for intimidating and torturing journalists. It is widely suspected to be behind the murder of Saleem Shehzad, a journalist who was investigating links between the Taliban and Pakistan’s navy in 2011. Shehzad was abducted on his way to a TV studio in Islamabad; his body was found in a ditch a few days later, bearing marks of torture. A judicial inquiry into his murder was inconclusive. Pakistan’s government has also established a panel of three judges to inquire into this recent attack.

Civil-military relations in Pakistan have become particularly fraught in recent months on account of former dictator Pervez Musharraf’s on-going trial for treason, which the military sees as an insult. After Geo’s accusations, Pakistan’s army chief made an ostentatious trip to the ISI headquarters in a show of support. In a tussle between the media and Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence agency, it’s not difficult to guess whom the military is going to back.

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  • Anthony

    Small men with access to levers of power and by derivative options/choices (no matter how miniscule) can/will use punishingly and disproportionately.

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