Two Pakistani daily newspapers have said sorry to the country’s armed forces for their “excessive, distressful and emotional” coverage of an attack on Hamid Mir, a prominent journalist shot multiple times last month by unknown attackers.
Mir works for Geo, a private Pakistani channel owned by the Jang Group, which also owns the two print titles.
He and Geo claimed the assassination attempt was the work of Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI. The allegations were carried in both newspapers and repeated by Mir’s relatives.
The apology said: “It was never our intention to malign or offend any institution or person … we have concluded that our coverage was excessive, distressful and emotional.
“This caused deep hurt to ISI as an institution, its director general, members of his family, the rank and file of the Armed Forces and a large number of our viewers. We deeply apologise for hurting them all.”
Infamy and blasphemy
Geo has experienced a few setbacks since airing its claims of a military-led campaign against Mir, who has survived previous attempts on his life.
The Ministry of Defence sought a cancellation of Geo’s licence, accusing the channel of “false, malicious and irresponsible reporting”, and the prosecution of the editorial team. There have been public rallies in support of the military and its key figures.
Some cable operators have dropped the channel altogether, or moved it further down their listings. To compound the channel’s woes, a blasphemy case has been lodged against it.
It is not clear if Monday’s mea culpa will improve the fortunes of Geo, its owners or employees.
Since 2001, Pakistan has ranked as one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist, according to various campaign groups including Amnesty International.
Criticising the ISI and the military is a widely perceived taboo in Pakistan, with the confrontation between Geo and the military stirring debate about press freedom in the country.