Pakistani authorities must swiftly and impartially investigate death threats and online harassment targeting prominent television anchor Hamid Mir and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Mir, who hosts the flagship political show “Capital Talk” on Geo News and has survived at least two previous assassination attempts, told CPJ that he had received multiple death threats on social media and warnings that his life was in danger from two journalists familiar with the situation. Mir had reported the threats to the police last week in the capital, Islamabad, but they had yet to register a First Information Report needed to open an investigation.

On April 28, journalist Imran Riaz Khan posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he had been told that “preparations are being made to take actions” against Mir for his comments in support of freedom of speech in Pakistan, where journalists say they are often harassed and attacked by the military, political groups, and criminals.

Mir also told CPJ that he saw at least two people filming him last week while he was in his vehicle near his Islamabad home but they ran away when he approached them. Mir also reported this to the police.

On April 24, Mir filed a complaint to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which investigates cybercrimes, asking the agency to register a case against Jan Achakzai, the former information minister of southwestern Baluchistan province, for repeatedly insulting Mir on X, including calling him a “traitor.” In the complaint, reviewed by CPJ, Mir said that Achakzai’s “malicious attacks” undermined his credibility and jeopardized his safety.

On May 1, Achakzai said on X that he had been summoned to appear at the FIA’s Cybercrime Reporting Center on May 3. He criticized Mir for advocating for freedom of expression and for using his show to talk to separatists in Baluchistan.

“The threats and online hate campaign against one of Pakistan’s most prominent television anchors illustrate the severity of intimidation and pressure faced by journalists in Pakistan,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi . “Pakistani security agencies must immediately act against those trying to silence Hamid Mir and hold them accountable.” 

Press freedom advocate

Mir has consistently advocated for press freedom in Pakistan.

On April 27, he filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court seeking the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the 2022 killing of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya. In February, Mir spoke out on “Capital Talk” against the detention of journalists Imran Riaz Khan and Asad Ali Toor. In 2021, Mir was suspended from his talk show at Geo News after criticizing the military at a rally in support of Toor, who had been beaten up by unidentified men.

Mir has survived at least two attempted assassinations — in 2014 he was shot and in 2012 his driver found explosives planted under his car. In 2011, Mir publicly shared a death threat that he received after criticizing the military, judiciary, and intelligence services.

Since 1992, 64 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in Pakistan, CPJ data shows. Pakistan ranked 11th on CPJ’s 2023 Global Impunity Index, which ranks countries by how often the killers of journalists go unpunished.

On April 3, exiled Afghan journalist, Ahmad Hanayesh, was attacked by armed men in Islamabad. On March 14, Pakistani journalist Jam Saghir Ahmed Lar was shot dead in Pakistan’s central Punjab province.

CPJ’s text messages to information minister Attaullah Tarar and Syed Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari, deputy Inspector General of Police in Islamabad, requesting comment on the threats against Mir did not receive any replies.