ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani army has filed a complaint asking the government to shut down the country's leading private Geo News TV channel over what the military calls "false" reports, an official said Wednesday.
The development comes amid a big tussle between the powerful military and the channel, following the shooting last Saturday of the station's popular talk show host, Hamid Mir — the latest in a wave of attacks on journalists in the country.
The text of the complaint, which was posted on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the army wanted the station closed because it was allegedly carrying out a "false and scandalous campaign" against Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, or the ISI.
The TV has run accusations against the spy agency, blaming it for the "assassination attempt" against Mir.
Fakhruddin Mughal of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority said the defense ministry has filed a complaint against the TV and that the authority's legal team was meeting to examine the request.
Mir was attacked when a single gunman opened fire on his car, followed by others who chased him on motorcycles in the port city of Karachi. He suffered six gunshot wounds to the stomach and upper legs but survived and is being treated in hospital.
It wasn't the first attempt against the talk show host — last year, authorities found a bomb under Mir's car but he escaped unharmed.
Mir's brother, Amir Mir, appeared on Geo News shortly after the latest incident, alleging the ISI was behind the shooting. He claimed Hamid had told the family the agency was to blame in case of any harm to his life and also that his brother had received threats from the ISI.
Hamid could not be reached for comment.
Also, he had in recent weeks given prominent coverage to a group campaigning against forced disappearances and torture of insurgents and their supporters in southwestern Baluchistan province — allegedly at the hands of ISI.
Later, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa in remarks to Pakistan's Dunya TV, accused Geo TV of a smearing campaign against the ISI and warned of a legal action against the station.
On Tuesday night, another talk show host at Geo TV, Kamran Khan, in apparent damage control attempts, said the Mir family had blamed ISI and that this wasn't the station's official stance.
Pakistan is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. The CPJ, which recently urged the government in Islamabad to do more to protect journalists, expressed concern on Wednesday for Mir's case.
"We call on Pakistan's security services to recognize the critical role of the media and exercise tolerance and maturity," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator in a statement posted on CPJ website. "The ISI is free to rebut allegations in the media but should not try to censor coverage."
Pakistani journalists have staged protest rallies across the country in support of Geo TV and condemning the attack on Mir.