PAKISTAN: Intimidation of journalists continues with the attempted assassination of Hamid Mir
An explosive device was planted in the car of a renowned journalist. It is not known as to whether this was an attempt to assassinate him or merely intimidate him. A right wing journalist by his writings Mr. Hamid Mir, the anchorperson of Geo news channel, has accused some 'state actors' and some 'non state actors' of involvement in planting the bomb under his car. He has been under threat from the Taliban and other groups from Al-Qaida for some time now and on many occasions receives threatening calls from unknown persons—must be from state intelligence agencies. He has reported to federal minister for interior about the telephone numbers but no action or investigations have been conducted in the matter. According to information received his name has been included in a Taliban hit list. He says that after conducting many programmes on Malala Yousufzai, the 15 year old girl who shot by the Taliban for advocating education for girls in a Taliban stronghold he started receiving threats and warnings that his life is in danger. Some years ago he was accused of having links with the politics of the Taliban and when it was exposed he received threats. The family members of one Taliban operator, who was previously an ISI officer, blamed Hamid Mir of involved in the murder of a former Talibani. In this matter a case is pending in the court. He also conducted interviews with Osama Bin Laden.
The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the cowardly attack on Mr. Hamid Mir. It is the right of any journalist to write according to his conscience and this right also extends to Mr. Mir despite his anti-liberal stance.
The situation of journalists in Pakistan is very dangerous. During the eleven months of the year seven journalists have been killed whereas during the last year 16 journalists were killed by terrorists, state intelligence agencies and powerful persons including law enforcement agencies. In the month of November 2012, a working journalist, Mr. Rehmatullah Abid, from Dunya News was shot and killed in the province of Balochistan where the military and its units are stationed and there is a strong separatist movement.
The international community has declared the Pakistan as the most dangerous country for journalists.
Mr. Hamid Mir is also under threat from the intelligence agencies that are not happy with his openness on the issues of disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkha provinces where military operations were conducted and where many journalists were targeted and killed. It is known that most if not all of the attacks on journalists and politicians are the result of continuous terrorism. However, many of the victims publically blame the attacks on American or even Israeli sources out of fear that if they name their attackers they will suffer even more severe consequences. The lack of freedom of expression is the result of the lack of protection from the state.
Freedom of expression in Pakistan is defined in several ways. Every stakeholder has a different definition and interest box to define this term. For example for a professional journalist freedom of expression means peoples access to the right to information, news and stories or video clips or photos. Owners have defined their own designed freedom of expression boxes. They have already assumed that if they write on the judiciary, military and so called national security issues including the ideology of Pakistan and nuclear capabilities, blasphemy, or against religious groups and terrorist outfits, they will be condemned by the agencies or other pressure groups.
Those reporters who write on these issues are either tortured and sometimes killed by these factors or expelled from their media houses on the pretext that media houses cannot sustain the pressure of the governments and parties. So the situation is very serious and the journalists are vulnerable despite the fact that Pakistani media exposes so many evils. The fact is that the media cannot touch the holy cows and so-called national interest discourses.
A dummy culture has been created by the defense agencies and the government to try to manipulate the freedom of the press to promote their agenda and to marginalize the mainstream media coverage. This is done by articles, editorials and even unchecked advertisements to promote the ideals of the government.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government to implement Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding freedom of expression its true spirit. The government should also provide protection to the working journalists and work vigorously to expel the terrorists from the country. Sadly it is noted that the higher courts, that were reinstated by the efforts of the people are also working to suppress the freedom of expression. Therefore it is the duty of the higher courts to provide undiluted freedom of expression so that the state intelligence agencies cannot intimidate the journalist's community.
The AHRC calls for the formation of a high powered committee to inquire into the attempt to assassinate Mr. Hamid Mir and the killings of other journalists who work on military issues and in war zones.