Pakistani journalist and television anchor Hamid Mir talks with media… (Farooq Naeem / Agence France-Presse…)
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a failed attempt to bomb the car of television anchor Hamid Mir, whom the militant group had earlier threatened because of his reporting on the shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.
A Taliban spokesman told reporters that Mir had been following a secular agenda and warned the group would target others like him. Police had defused a bomb found under Mir's car Monday in Islamabad after a neighbor reportedly spotted the device.
Mir, a veteran journalist who anchors a political talk show on Geo Television, had received threats for several months, he told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Over the years, his reporting has put him at odds with a laundry list of government officials and extremist groups. When the bomb was found under his car, he told the Associated Press he wasn’t ready to blame the Taliban, since others had also threatened him.
“I was banned by the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf from appearing on television because of my pro-democracy talk shows. I was even kidnapped in war zones by the Afghan Taliban and the Hezbollah,” Mir wrote last month on his website. “But I am lucky enough to have ducked all such dangers successfully, so far. For me, journalism is not a profession but a passion.”
Mir had recently devoted attention to the plight of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old activist who survived an attempted assassination by the Taliban last month after speaking out for girls’ education. The girl's shooting outraged Pakistanis and captivated the world.
After the thwarted bombing, the girl and her father called Mir to express their solidarity, the anchor wrote on Twitter. “Malala said that Insha Allah [God willing] we will defeat terrorists,” Mir wrote.
Media freedom groups held protests over the attempted attack. The Committee to Protect Journalists labeled Pakistan the most deadly nation in the world for journalists in 2011 and questioned whether its government was unwilling or simply unable to protect reporters.
This fall, the country won praise from Reporters Without Borders for speedy safety measures after another round of Taliban threats against journalists. But two local groups argued the attempted bombing Monday, though unsuccessful, reflected a government failure to protect Mir.
“Mir has been reporting receiving threats time and again. But placing of a bag with explosives under his car means no serious measures have been taken to ensure his security,” leaders from the South Asian Free Media Assn. and Media Commission-Pakistan said in a joint statement reported by the News International.
Pakistani police told reporters they are investigating the attempted attack. An award of roughly $500,000 is being offered for information about the bomb, according to news reports.
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