The controversy surrounding television anchor and columnist Hamid Mir refuses to go away, and for good reason. Many questions remain unanswered. A purported telephone conversation between him and an unknown militant has shocked the country and the journalistic community in particular.
If the person on the line is indeed Mr Mir, an explanation is in order about his possible ties with militant organisations. He must also answer allegations that the information he ostensibly provided may have contributed to the killing of Khalid Khawaja, a former ISI official belonging to the air force who had been abducted by the Taliban. Mr Khawaja, believed by many to be a Taliban sympathiser, is repeatedly described as a CIA agent by the man who sounds uncannily like Hamid Mir.
Mr Khawaja and his wife are also held responsible in part for the bloodbath at Islamabad’s Lal Masjid. The person on the phone also spews venom of the vilest kind on the Ahmadi community. Slain Taliban leaders are referred to as martyrs.
Mr Mir denies most of the conversation and has served legal notice on the paper that broke the story. He claims that he and the organisation that employs him are being victimised for their consistent criticism of the PPP government and President Zardari in particular. Hamid Mir, who is not short of detractors even within the media, also maintains that the audio ‘recording’ is the work of the Intelligence Bureau which took a voice sample and then produced an entire conversation with the help of a “special gadget.”
Mr Mir has every right to proclaim his innocence but that alone will not suffice. In this digital age it is child’s play for independent experts to confirm whether or not the voice on the tape is Mr Mir’s. It is just as simple to distinguish a doctored recording from an unedited conversation. The credibility of the media is at stake here. What is needed is an investigation that is carried out with an open mind and whose outcome is accepted and acted upon by all parties. This is imperative if allegations of unethical conduct by the media and charges of dirty tricks by the government are to be laid to rest.
Thursday, 20 May, 2010