Attack on Journalist Starts
Battle in Pakistani Press
For some time, Pakistan’s writers organized a critical reflection for their tempestuous nation and were regarded as unpleasant champions of democracy: courageous if occasionally flawed truth-tellers who helped oust the military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
But a bad weapon attack last weekend on Hamid Mir, the country’s most well-known television newscaster, seemingly have changed anything, leaving a divisive media battle where the reality itself is becoming bitterly contested.
At issue are statements broadcast by Geo Information, Mr. Mir’s company and also the biggest place, the military’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, was behind the April 19 assault by which Mr. Mir was shot six times as he moved to some Karachi television business.
Even staunch ISI experts believed the station’s personalized problems, which designated the ISI spy key because the offender, were premature and hasty, particularly at the same time when Islamist militants were also targeting journalists.
But competing channels got the debate a step further, utilizing it to cudgel Geo and question Mr. Mir’s reasons — one-station also suggested he designed the firing like a publicity stunt — at the same time if the ISI was officially attempting to have Geo turn off permanently.
The vituperative exchanges have subjected unpleasant areas of Pakistan’s oft-praised marketing revolution: Combined with The military’s serious campaign to muzzle the media may be the heavy hand of querulous press barons who, influenced by industrial considerations and personal grudges, may be risking the field they helped build.
“The way it has played-out is very troubling,” stated Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn magazine, among the few media outlets which have remained from the challenge. “I’ve never seen the press such as this, truly pursuing another. If greater feeling doesn’t win, whatever we’ve gained in media freedom will be lost.”
The stakes are high on all sides. Since 2007, when television coverage played a vital role in fanning the road protests that resulted in the ouster of General Musharraf, the press has exploded into a strong element in Pakistani culture. Television news has open violations and increased public debate, however it has faced sharp criticism for providing a system to Islamist extremists as well as for poor reporting.
The exploding market made fortunes for a number of freshly minted media tycoons, and has also made prime-time talk-show hosts like Mr. Mir into strong numbers.
For journalists, however, it’s been a risky moment: Some 34 journalists have died within the type of work since democracy was restored in 2008, said Mustafa Qadri of Amnesty International, whose record on press independence arrives April 30 to become printed.
“It is very dangerous to become a writer in Pakistan,” he explained.
The military, particularly, has squirmed underneath the media’s constant scrutiny. Concerns have been bubbling for a while between your Jang Group, the country’s biggest media conglomerate, as well as the ISI. Jang is owned by Mir Shakil ur-Rehman, a reclusive publisher who lives with his two wives in Dubai, where he maintains a good hold on the media empire which includes Geo Information, many activities and entertainment programs, along with a stable of newspapers in Urdu and English.
Last fall, Mr. Rehman came to think the ISI was supporting a brand new television station, Bol, to weaken his political and industrial strength. Their papers went aggressive reviews about Bol, forcing competitive media companies hitting back with stories that painted Geo as supportive to Pakistan’s old rival, India.
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Senior figures at Geo stated the spat had placed their lives at risk. In November, Mr. Rehman’s son Ibrahim, who’s leader of Geo, said he’d received warnings of an assault by “the ISI or among their proxies.” Mr. Mir stated the ISI tried to lure him from the place, and had threatened his life.
The tensions erupted openly after last weekend’s assault on Mr. Mir. His brother, Amir Mir, who’s also a writer, accused the ISI of orchestrating the firing within an emotional denunciation which was broadcast all night on Geo, usually against a background of the picture of the ISI director general, Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam.
The ISI leadership, stung from the extraordinarily open problem, responded angrily. On Tuesday, the country’s press regulation was violated by the military leadership wanted to possess Geo turn off and its editors prosecuted for scandalous” strategy and “a libelous that it said. On Thursday, television audiences in major cities discovered that Geo had faded from its normal place on the cable TV packages. And on Friday, posters appeared across central Islamabad that maintained glossy pictures of the spy chief and recognized the ISI, General Islam, an initial in a region where many people fear to express the characters ISI aloud.
From right, Hamid Mir together with his talk-show Ahsan Iqbal and guests Naveed Qamar in February. Credit Sohail Shahzad/European Pressphoto Agency
Few question the ISI, with a dismal history of problems around the media, is effective at this kind of attack. The traveler agency’s press cell, notorious among writers, is well known to entice select writers with cash, automobiles or other inducements. Essential journalists have already been subjected to torture, abduction and harassment. After he was kidnapped by presumed ISI agents in May 2011 your body of an undercover reporter, Saleem Shahzad, was present in a canal south of Islamabad.
But other teams will also be targeting journalists, particularly the Pakistani Taliban as well as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the dominant political party in Karachi, based on Amnesty International. Both of these organizations have treated Geo.
In 2012, the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi employed a senior reporter at Geo to help plan the murder of the news editor as well as a prominent talk show host in the place, said a former Geo supervisor with strong understanding of the situation. The plan was foiled if the writer revealed.
A second Geo worker was recognized as a militant following the Taliban attack on Karachi’s Mehran naval base in June 2011, the previous director said. The place also believes that expert info played a role in the death of Wali Khan Babar, a Geo writer who had been murdered by the M.Q.M. This year, a present Geo supervisor said.
The debate over Mr. Mir’s firing is unlikely to be solved. Within the past 2 decades, Pakistan’s courts have Mr. Babar, the Geo writer: Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter murdered in 2002, and created beliefs in only two deadly attacks on journalists.
“Even if we discover who pulled the trigger on Hamid Mir,” said Mr. Qadri of Amnesty, “it’s most unlikely the people in it is going to be found out.”
Unlike in the Musharraf era, when writers united against military efforts to muzzle them, controversial rivalries between the entrepreneurs who own the major areas have drawn the press aside.
Mr. Rehman of the Jang group includes a rancorous relationship with Sultan Lakhani, who owns small Specific marketing collection, with many papers and a television station. (some of those documents, the English-language Show Tribune, images The International New York Times in Pakistan.) A third place, ARY, is held by a household of gold traders that’s little love for Mr. Rehman.
“The control of their state in what goes on as well as the owners has improved greatly,” said one publisher, talking about the condition of anonymity. “No editor or reporter may take a stand against them.”
The uncertainty has partially obscured the plight of Mr. Mir, that has an ambiguous history with the ISI. He shot to prominence after finding Osama bin Laden in 1998, and was regarded as sympathetic towards the pro-jihadi agenda of the ISI as well as the Pakistani military. However in the past few years he’s championed the cause of Baluch nationalists, angering the army, and highlighted human rights violations during military operations.
Where plants are stacked outside his door, he’s currently under close security in a Karachi hospital and physicians report a steady recovery. In a statement released through his brother, Mr. Mir promised to “continue the battle for your rights of individuals till last drop and my last breath of blood.”
Other writers, however, fear that something better are at risk: Pakistan’s hard-won press freedoms. The furor over Mr. Mir’s firing might result not just within greater limitations to the whole press, but also in the final of Geo.
“A lot of us liberals feel a problem,” said Start magazine, a former manager in the BBC and Abbas Nasir. “We’re disgusted with all the way Geo has operated recently. But we also understand the effects of allowing the press is turn off by the shoes. And that’s got to become underneath line.”