A petition seeking sedition charges against veteran journalist and TV anchorperson Hamid Mir was filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday for his speech "containing very serious derogatory remarks and allegations against the disciplined institution of Pakistan".
Mir, the longtime host of the popular Capital Talk, had last week delivered a fiery speech in Islamabad calling for accountability for the repeated assaults on journalists while speaking at a protest against the attack on Asad Ali Toor. Mir had also warned in his speech of retaliation if the attacks on journalists continued.
He was subsequently taken off air and told BBC Urdu that he had been informed by the Geo News management that he would "not go on air on Monday" to host his five-days-a-week show Capital Talk. "The management asked me to either explain or refute the speech outside the [National] Press Club," Mir told BBC Urdu.
Friday's petition against Mir was filed by Advocate Nadeem Sarwar on behalf of Sardar Farrukh Mushtaq and named the Federation of Pakistan through the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Ministry of Interior and Mir as respondents.
The petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, claimed that Mir's behaviour amounted to contempt of society and its institutions and that the respondents had failed to take appropriate action in accordance with Section 124-A (Sedition) of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860.
"Sedition is a crime against the whole society, in all civilised countries and orderly governments. The integrity and preservation of [the] state and its institutions is [a] matter of great vital concern and is so sacred that no attempt at its disruption or weakening, directly or indirectly will be countenanced.
"In the present case the federal government has failed to lodge a complaint against Hamid Mir which is [a] mandatory duty of the government. The act and inaction on upon the part of government functionaries amount to dereliction of duty prescribed by the Constitution and law," the petitioner argued.
The petition urged the LHC to direct the government to lodge a complaint against Mir through an authorised individual.
The LHC's registrar office, meanwhile, noted in an objection sheet — seen by Dawn.com — that the application had not been first submitted to the relevant forum and had instead directly been filed to the high court.
'Another step towards autocracy'
Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had said on Wednesday it was "appalled" by the move to take Mir off air, terming it "another step towards autocracy" in the PTI-led government's rule.
"Reporters Without Borders is appalled that Hamid Mir [...] has been taken off the air by his TV channel after saying at a protest that those responsible for recent physical attacks on journalists should be identified," the global watchdog said in a statement.
RSF noted that Mir was "suspended summarily", without any form of proceedings against him.
The statement had quoted Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, as saying that it was "extremely disturbing that a media group has been reduced to censoring its own star journalist simply because he defended his fellow journalists against violence".