Perhaps everything that could be said on the saga following the shooting of journalist and anchorperson Hamid Mir, has been said already. From the vilest and most base to the loftiest and most principled positions have already been taken and articulated.

Today I write not to say anything new, but to stand up and be counted – to endorse and to add to those voices I believe to be correct. For it is important that each one of us who can make their voice heard, do so to resist the onslaught on hard won freedoms, albeit not perfect, in this country. I particularly found veteran journalist Abbas Nasir’s comprehensive judgment on the issue to be one entirely in sync with mine.

Repugnant to the core have been the reactions of the Express and ARY groups – one having labelled Mr. Imtiaz Alam an Indian/ RAW agent, and the other Mr. Hamid Mir a traitor. The less said about the cynical, non-journalistic behavior of both, the better. The media groups and channels that have opted to tread the opportunistic path to attack the Geo/ Jang group, seem to have learnt nothing from the past. Or perhaps they have unshakeable trust in themselves never ever to make the mistake of not siding with the military or its intelligence agencies. But people can change over time, and so can organisations. Many of us, including myself, defending the right of Geo channel’s license not to be cancelled or the circulation of its newspapers not to be interfered with, have been at odds with its policies on several occasions. I have abhorred not only stances taken by other journalists within this organization, but also many stances taken by Hamid Mir in the past. And I have no compunction or fear in stating that I suspected those stances on national security, India, jihad and the glory of Islam to be representative of the ‘strategic’ thinking prevalent in the armed forces and ISI at the time. And though Geo channel’s handling of the Mir family’s allegations on the day of the attack transgressed reporting ethics in no small way, it was hardly the first blot on reporting or journalistic ethics. Nor has Geo been alone in transgressing ethics in the past. Yet, never was such action threatened as that done by the defense ministry (read the military and ISI) when militants and extremists were given platforms for their hateful ideology by various news channels; never was Geo targeted for Amir Liaqat’s hate mongering against the Ahmadis; never was Dunya targeted for Arshad Sharif’s incitement to violence and smear campaigns against NGOs and the Art of Living Center; never was any channel even reprimanded by any authority civilian or military for showing rape victims’ faces; never was any channel targeted thus for hounding, ridiculing and invading the privacy of trans-people, gays, prostitutes or couples dating in parks by the likes of Maya Khan and Maria Zulfiqar Khan.

The electronic media has undoubtedly been utterly obnoxious in some of its transmissions. And it should have been penalized in every instance – PEMRA should have fined the media houses in transparent proceedings where ever private channels were found violating human rights and the code of journalistic ethics. But no. Everyone and their mother seems to have swung into action when the matter of allegations against the ISI was treated unethically and unjustifiably. So how is the ISI’s mistreatment more serious than that of raped children, prostitutes, gays, the Ahmadi or the Shia? Who died and made the ISI queen?

It appears as if the powerful military has found a great opportunity to teach lessons to the media in the Geo saga: you’re either with us or against us. And tobacco and gold sellers have fallen in line. They do not realize, the ISI burns everyone it sleeps with - eventually. Look at the Taliban. Look at Saleem Shahzad. Declan Walsh writes in the New York Times, “Few doubt the ISI, which has a dismal record of attacks on the press, is capable of such an attack. The spy agency’s media cell, infamous among journalists, is known to bribe select journalists with money, vehicles or other inducements. Critical reporters have been subjected to harassment, abduction and torture. In May 2011 the body of an investigative reporter, Saleem Shahzad, was found in a canal south of Islamabad after he was abducted by presumed ISI agents.” Saleem Shahzad was suspected by many to be close to the ISI, but expended when his reportage didn’t quite suit the agency.

Look at Hamid Mir himself. Once again, I find it sufficient to quote Declan, “The turmoil has partly obscured the plight of Mr. Mir, who has an ambiguous history with the ISI. He shot to prominence after interviewing Osama bin Laden in 1998, and was initially seen as sympathetic to the pro-jihadi agenda of the Pakistani military and the ISI. But in recent years he has championed the cause of Baluch nationalists, angering the army, and highlighted human rights abuses during military operations.”

At the end of the day, I will support the right of many a time obnoxious Geo channel’s freedom of speech; of six times shot Mir’s right to make allegations against whom he will. If PEMRA is to conduct an inquiry into Geo’s unethical reportage in the Mir vs ISI story, it must take up all other transgressions by all channels, and impose appropriate fines. But speech must not be smothered simply because this time the ISI got some of its own medicine to taste.

    The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.­