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NUJ deplores assassination attempt and media clampdown in Pakistan

24 April 2014

The National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland (NUJ) condemns the assassination attempt on Pakistan's Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir. The union extends support and solidarity to journalists in Pakistan and opposes the Defence Ministry's moves to get the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to take action against Geo TV network for levelling allegations against the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Hamid Mir was travelling in his car in Karachi when he was shot by assailants on Saturday 19 April. Severely wounded, Mir is currently in hospital. His employer, Geo TV, has broadcasted accusations that the intelligence chief was involved in the attempted murder.

The application to PEMRA seeks legal action against Geo TV for framing allegations against the ISI and its head, Director General Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam. According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence, the ministry has provided PEMRA with evidence indicating the media group’s involvement in tarnishing the image of the intelligence agency. The statement promises action against the channel’s editorial and management team. "All those who are involved in the mala fide broadcast, riddled with baseless allegations, will be taken to task," reads the statement.

Mir's family have blamed the ISI and its chief for the attack. Mir had also submitted a statement to the Prime Minister and his management, where he said that any harm to him would be the responsibility of the ISI. Mir had also sent an email to Geo’s management on Tuesday 25 February saying that the ISI chief had threatened him during an informal meeting with journalists and Mir had spoken to the Prime Minister’s office about the threat.

It seems the authorities are now trying to stop a full and public debate by trying to ban Geo TV and cancelling its license.

The union calls on PEMRA not to act on the spurious complaint and demands that Pakistan’s security services recognise the essential role of the media in any country – a free and independent media is a necessary requirement in any functioning society.

If Geo TV's license is revoked then it will be tantamount to direct interference of the armed forces and intelligence agencies in the freedom of press and expression.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and affiliates in Pakistan held protests on Sunday 20 April after which PFUJ president Rana Muhammad Azeem received death threats.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Murder attempts on senior journalists are becoming tragically routine in Pakistan which is now one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. Seven journalists have been murdered in Pakistan in 2014 and death threats and intimidation continue in a climate of impunity.
"The security situation for journalists in Pakistan is deteriorating and there needs to be an immediate investigation into the attempted murder of Hamid Mir.
"The NUJ backs the local union, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, demands for the Pakistani government to make journalists safer and to ensure death threats and attacks are thoroughly investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice. So far the government has failed in its duty to protect media workers."

Attend the solidarity protest in London for Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir

Saturday 26 April starting at 3.30pm

Pakistan High Commission, 34-36 Lowndes Square, London, SW1x 9JN.

The NUJ London chapel of Geo TV have helped to organise a solidarity protest in support of Hamid Mir on Saturday 26 April to show opposition to his attempted murder and show support for one of Pakistan’s most famous TV anchors.

More details about the protest are in the events section of the NUJ website - more details and press contacts available.

The security situation for journalists in Pakistan is deteriorating and there needs to be an immediate investigation into the attempted murder of Hamid Mir.

Tags: , threats, pakistan, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, impunity, safety, solidarity