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July 2, 2019 - Updated on July 31, 2019

Pakistani news channel censored while interviewing former president

Hamid Mir, Geo TV journalist and member of the jury, speaks during the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony in Addis Ababa, on May 2, 2019. “It's easy to understand who stopped [the interview],” he tweeted after his program was suddenly blacked-out on July 1st (photo: Eduardo Soteras / AFP).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that TV screens went blank last night during a current affairs programme on Pakistan’s Geo News TV channel, in what was clearly the result of censorship by the military establishment. RSF condemns the use of such methods in the strongest possible terms.

Screens suddenly went blank shortly after political reporter Hamid Mir began interviewing former President Asif Ali Zardari. “It's easy to understand who stopped [the interview],” Mir tweeted shortly afterwards. “Those who stopped it have no courage to accept publicly that they stopped it.”

 

“This utterly arbitrary interruption of programming bears the hallmarks of the military establishment, which is always quick to censor content it would probably dislike,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The suddenness with which this programme was taken off the air is an insult to all Pakistani citizens who have a right to a free press under article 19 of the 1973 constitution.”

 

Intimidation

 

Just over a year ago, transmission of Geo News and all of the four other channels owned by Geo TV was suspended for several days throughout at least 80% of the country in an apparent reprisal for its overly independent news coverage. No official suspension order ever emerged but the military were widely blamed because they control the network distribution cables in every district.

 

Geo News was previously the target of an intimidation campaign in 2014, after the same journalist, Hamid Mir, accused Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s leading intelligence agency, of being behind an attempt to kill him.

 

Pakistan is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2018.