An interview of former president Asif Ali with journalist Hamid Mir was taken off-air on Monday evening minutes after it was aired on Geo News, the anchor said in a tweet.
“Geo News announced that interview of Asif Zardari will not be aired it was started at 8:03 and stopped within a few minutes,” Mir said in a tweet. “I am getting calls from all over the world people asking what happened? The state of Pakistan is giving a bad name to this country.” He even apologised to his viewers and said, “We are not living in a free country”.
Interview of Asif Zardari stopped on Geo News within few minutes those who stopped it have no courage to accept publically that they stopped it
— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) July 1, 2019
The anchor shared some snippets of the interview too. In one video, Zardari responded to PTI-government’s claims that it didn’t launch any corruption investigation against anyone. “The investigation was started but someone else hastened the process,” he said.
Zardari is currently in NAB’s custody. He is being investigated for his alleged involvement in Rs4.4 billion money laundering case. NAB claims Zardari owns shares of a company, Zardari Group, which received some portion of the laundered money.
Some people on social media said that interview of a ‘criminal’ should not have been aired in the first place. “Nowhere [a person] accused of money laundering, fraud [and] fake accounts is allowed one hour air time to justify his crimes,” said journalist Rauf Klasra while responding to Mir’s tweet. He said that it is only in Pakistan that people in NAB’s custody can appear on television to give a “lecture” on democracy and transparency. Many others expressed similar sentiments.
In response, Mir shared a video of his interview with PM Imran Khan from 2007. The police were running after him and he was hiding in a secret place. He said that the regime of former president General Pervez Musharraf had asked the same question he is being asked now—how can you interview a wanted criminal?
Mir clarified that he interviewed Zardari in Parliament House. “Is he [a] bigger criminal than Ehsanullah Ehsan [the] former spokesman of TTP? Remember Ehsanullah Ehsan gave [an] interview from official custody.” He was referring to the Ehsan’s confessional statement which was run by news channels across Pakistan on April 26, 2017.
“This is an outrageous infringement on freedom of the press,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists Asia.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of the former president, remarked that the “Selected government only wants to hear selected voices.” There is no difference in Ziaul Haq, Musharraf’s Pakistan and Naya Pakistan, he added.
On May 28, 2018 journalist Syed Talat Hussain said one of his columns was not published in a newspaper after he declined to make changes suggested by the editorial staff. He said that his article was about the “thickening web of systematic censorship and manipulation in Pakistan.”