June 4th, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
Despite being taken off air without any warning, senior journalist Hamid Mir has no intentions of bowing down to get back in the same place. Whether it boils down to just the ‘internal politics of an organization’, or a points to a larger issue at hand, for Mir it is all the same, as he says he will not make any compromises only to get back on the TV network’s screen. Neither will he talk to Geo’s management to clarify his position. The journalist opened up in an exclusive interview with Voicepk.net on Friday, June 4, and spoke about a variety of issues affecting him, and also many other journalists.
“I didn’t make all these efforts to get back on Geo, nor did I take a stand just for personal gains,” he declares matter-of-factly. “If I compromise to get back on air, they will do it to every other person.”
The anchor was stopped from hosting his prime-time talk show Capital Talk – a show that he shaped from the very beginning when the private TV channel Geo was launched. The reason for the sudden removal became slightly clearer however, as it was only a couple of days after he delivered a fiery speech during a protest demonstration outside the National Press Club in Islamabad which was organized by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) to condemn the attack on video journalist Asad Ali Toor.
“Geo took me off-air without even giving me a show-cause notice,” he says. “First they took me off-screen, and then they announced that they would investigate the matter,” Mir says, pointing out the management’s unprofessional conduct.
While, Geo TV in a statement said that their editorial committee and lawyers would be ‘checking for violation of policy and law’, Mir says he is ready to face any court proceedings, but he will not be held answerable to Geo as he did not use the channel’s platform to deliver the speech. This decision by Geo has been criticized and condemned, not just by civil society and journalist bodies across the nation, but also internationally, as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and others have given their statements, highlighting the harassment that Pakistani journalists face.
The speech made several people uncomfortable, because Mir demanded that the increasing attacks on journalists be stopped at once, and that the perpetrators of these attacks must be held accountable otherwise he would be compelled to speak about the personal matters of a certain few in power.
While speaking to Voicepk.net, Mir also reveals that only in May 2021, 10 journalists including women journalists were beaten up and tortured, but only one case – that of Asad Toor’s – was reported.
“Till after two or three days after my speech, the Geo TV management contacted me and asked me to clarify my speech,” he reveals. “I told them if Asad Toor’s attackers would be arrested and presented before the media, I will apologize for my speech, let alone clarifying it. But now the situation is different. The PFUJ is constituting a committee and they told me the committee will speak on my behalf because I made the speech from the platform of the PFUJ,” says Mir.
Mir says he respects the sentiments of those who want him back on the screen but rejected any possibility of his return by compromising on his principal stance
That is not all for the veteran journalist. Not only has the May 28 speech blacklisted him from the screen, he is also facing allegations of treason for his speech.
A number of petitions and applications have been filed against Mir from different cities asking the police and courts to take action against him. The applicants state that Mir has ‘committed treason by criticising the military establishment’ and ‘taking names of serving generals in his speech’.
Responding to these allegations of sedition and treason, Mir says that he made a hard-hitting speech not due to any personal hatred but only because he was upset due to the attack on Asad Toor. But he clarified that he didn’t take any name during his speech.
“Yes, I did criticize but I didn’t take any names. I only took one name and that was of General Rani and that too was taken in a special context. A lawyer has filed an application against me alleging that I took General Bajwa’s name in my speech but in reality, I didn’t take his name. Now tell me who is doing a disservice to general Bajwa – me or that person?”
Mir becomes quizzical when he counters the allegations. “How can I target the army?” he questions and then explains that he was the one who had covered the Pakistan army at length and visited their different installations including Siachen and the Line of Control (LoC).
“When I last visited the LoC and met the troops there, I realised that these soldiers and I share a similar pain. A foreign enemy hits them (troops) but an internal enemy attacks me, and while a soldier knows his enemy, I don’t even know about mine.”
“When a soldier is hit by a bullet and is martyred or injured, who else can feel his pain other than me? I was also shot six times, two bullets are still inside my body.” Mir refers to an assasination attempt on him in 2014 in which he miraculously survived.
However he categorically states that he has no enmity with the Pakistan army as an institution and its troops and he has never criticized them and would never do so.
“If I had made a strong and offensive statement, I am ready to apologize but is it not my right to ask to have this killing and abducting journalists be stopped? Enough is enough! How many lessons will they teach us? How many treason cases will they file against us? Maximum, they can throw us behind bars. Well…Do it then!”