Pakistani police state deadly for journalists

The Pakistani journalist shot last week has issued his first statement, once again blaming the country’s intelligence agency for the attack.

Hamid Mir, a popular and sometimes controversial anchor for the country’s leading news channel Geo TV, was shot and wounded on Saturday in Karachi.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) dismissed the accusation as baseless and misleading.

The defence department has urged the media regulator to suspend Geo TV.

Hamid Mir’s statement was read out late on Thursday by his brother, Amir Mir, who previously went on Geo TV and directly accused the ISI of ordering the attack.

Although the news channel later appeared to distance itself from the accusations, this latest statement was given primetime prominence and will intensify the stand-off between the news channel and the military, the BBC’s Kim Ghattas in Islamabad reports.

“I had been facing threats from both state and non-state actors, but some developments in the recent past convinced me to inform my colleagues about the elements who could most likely try to kill me,” Hamid Mir’s statement reads.

He goes on to describe an occasion where intelligence officials apparently visited his home to say his name was on a hit list.

“I told them [colleagues] that in the current situation I felt the most immediate threat from the ISI.”

The statement claims the ISI was angry because of his coverage of the issue of Balochistan and his criticism of the spy agency.

“State agencies often use the name of non-state actors to threaten journalists so as to prevent them from speaking or writing the truth,” the statement said.

Media standards

The ISI angrily denounced the accusations when they were originally put forward by Mr Mir’s brother, and the defence ministry says Geo brought the agency into disrepute.

Pakistan’s media regulator is considering its request that Geo TV be suspended.

The defence department complaint accuses Geo of conducting “a vicious campaign, libellous and scandalous in nature… against a state institution tasked to work for the defence, sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan”.

Geo was also criticised by rival TV channels and ex-military analysts for its coverage in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Geo has not responded formally to the complaint, saying it only reported the Mir family’s version of events and that rival channels have “wrongly attributed the allegations against ISI to Geo”.

While the shooting was a violent reminder of the dangers Pakistani journalists face on a daily basis, the aftermath also highlighted problems with the standards of the country’s media, correspondents say.

Hamid Mir, the first journalist to interview Osama bin Laden after 9/11, is one of Pakistan’s best-known presenters and survived an attack by the Taliban in 2012.

In this latest incident he was hit six times in the abdomen and legs after his car was fired on by men on motorbikes as he was leaving Karachi airport.

It remains unclear who fired the shots and no group has said it carried out the attack.

Pakistan is one of the word’s most dangerous countries for journalists.

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