Just a few minutes after it was broadcast, an interview of former president Asif Ali Zardari was abruptly taken off air from Geo News, a leading news channel of Pakistan.
The incident has generated strong reactions from journalists and media watchdogs who have accused the Imran Khan government of suppressing press freedom. They have called this stopping of interview mid-air as censorship, PTI reported.
Pakistani Journalist, Murtaza Solangi, wrote on Twitter, "Stopping Hamid Mir’s interview with former President Asif Zardari is shameful."
Stopping Hamid Mir’s interview with former President Asif Zardari is shameful manifestation of the fact that we live in quasi martial law with no feeedom of press. The figleaf of democracy is burnt and the real face of #Selected #ShamDemocracy is revealed.— Murtaza Solangi (@murtazasolangi) July 1, 2019
The Asia Desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists said it was an "outrageous infringement on freedom of the press!"
Zardari, who is the co-chairman of the Opposition's Pakistan Peoples Party and the husband of the country's first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is currently in the custody of the anti-corruption body National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for corruption and multi-million dollar money-laundering cases, along with his sister Faryal Talpur, till July 2.
They were arrested last month and both have denied charges.
Zardari was interviewed by Hamid Mir, a well-known face of Pakistan media, when he was allowed by the National Assembly Secretariat to attend the parliament for the day.
On Monday night, Mir was hosting his daily eight o'clock show, "Capital Talk", when the channel started airing Zardari's interview. A few minutes into the interview, it was pulled off- air and replaced with other news stories. Later, the channel announced it will not broadcast the interview.
Hamid Mir, too, took to Twitter to express his anguish. He wrote, "I can only say sorry to my viewers that an interview was started and stopped on Geo New[s].."
I can only say sorry to my viewers that an interview was started and stopped on Geo New I will share the details soon but it’s easy to understand who stopped it?We are not living in a free country— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) July 1, 2019
In another tweet, he said, "I am getting calls from all over the world people asking what happened?..."
Geo News announced that interview of Asif Zardari will not be aired it was started at 8:03 and stopped within few minutes I am getting calls from all over the world people asking what happened?State of Pakistan giving bad name to this country we don’t need enemies pic.twitter.com/BnDLH6ZwJv— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) July 1, 2019
Some, on the other side of the political divide, criticised Mir for interviewing Zardari in the first place as the latter is yet to be acquitted of charges.
Journalist Rauf Klasra tweeted, "No offences please, but nowhere a top accused of money laundering, frauds and fake accounts is allowed one hour air time to justify his crimes..."
No offences pls but no where a top accused of money laundering,frauds & fake accounts is allowed one hour air time to justify his crimes. It only happens in Pakistan where an accused in custody of NAB on physical remand,appears on tv to give us lecture on democracy& transparency https://t.co/chqNY5UvN4— Rauf Klasra (@KlasraRauf) July 1, 2019
The government is yet to respond, and it's not clear on whose direction the interview was pulled down.
Normally, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority is empowered to take such actions.
(With inputs from PTI)
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