Hamid Mir doesn’t sound like he’s down. On the contrary, the seasoned journalist sounds energised and alive. His phone was dead (or switched off) for the past two days, when The Current tried to reach out to him. Eventually when we got through, he didn’t pause for a second and gave us his version of the event that led to his removal from his flagship show, ‘Capital Talk’ on Geo News.
“What will Geo probe?” he said when asked that Geo News had stated that they would “check for violation of policy and law” in a speech given by Hamid Mir “that resulted in backlash from different segments of society”.
“My speech did not air on Geo News, it was not published in the newspaper,” Mir said categorically, “so how is Geo responsible when it never appeared on their television screens?”
But Mir does admit that the pressure is intense on the management of his channel, which ultimately falls on him. “I am always prepared for pressure,” he says calmly, “I offered to leave the channel on Friday night when I was asked to clarify my statement. I told the management that when I never spoke on your channel, why do I need to issue a clarification? I was then told not to tweet on the issue and also that I should not take part in any other programmes,” Mir explained. “I was going to go on different news channels and said that I am not going to discuss my speech but to discuss the media ordinance. I was asked not to do so and therefore, I didn’t. I did tell them [management] that ‘they’ will ask you to remove me from the programme in a day or so and that’s exactly what happened.”
When asked what it was about this particular case that drove Mir to give the speech, he said it was because of a man in a wheelchair.
“When I was about to speak, if you notice in the video, there is a man on my right side sitting on a wheelchair. The man is an old journalist Qaiser Butt and he randomly said, ‘Larki ka bhai ho sakta hai‘ (it can be the girl’s brother) implying that Toor was part of an illicit relationship. That made me angry since Asad was standing right there as well. I got de-tracked and said, ‘larki ki maa bhi ho sakti hai jo General Rani hai‘. But it’s not just that.”
Mir says the biggest reason for speaking out had been building up for the past three weeks. “In the past two, three weeks, some female colleagues were complaining that they were being threatened and one told me that ‘they’ came to her house. They didn’t cause her any harm but gave her a message.” He added that two female journalists also wanted to file a case but they have restrictions that are different. “Their husbands tell them not to report the cases; they face problems with their in-laws.”
Mir is hopeful for change this time. “I did the speech knowing I would lose my job and I was prepared for that,” he says. “Right now, as I am speaking with you, I am at a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Hina Jilani is also here and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) is going to be releasing a white paper on the new cases that have come up. I can’t tell you, I have been swamped with calls of people that are now finally coming forward with cases and want to raise their voice.”
“Lots of people are taken off air, but there has never been such a big reaction,” Mir says, explaining that in this particular case, the local and international reaction is bigger than he expected. “I am getting a lot of calls from international networks wanting to cover the story and because of this interest, I believe that some pressure will be put on the political government for accountability.”
“Lots of ministers are messaging me in private, lending their support,” Mir said. “Perhaps this time, we might see some actual change.”
Hamid Mir was taken off air on Monday.