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FILE: Hamid Mir recoded his television show outside the Islamabad Press Club to protest a ban by military dictator Pervez Musharraf in 2007.

One of Pakistan’s most prominent journalists says the country’s security establishment cut short his interview with a former president shortly after it began on an independent television channel on July 1.

“It is obvious that the establishment was involved. Only they can force a sudden takedown,” journalist Hamid Mir told Radio Mashaal on July 2. The establishment is an euphemism for Pakistan’s powerful military. Many Pakistanis use the term to avoid saying the military, which has ruled the country for decades under four army generals.

Viewers in Pakistan were watching Mir’s interview with former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari late on July 1 when it suddenly stopped. In June, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), a Pakistani anti-corruption agency, arrested Zardari. He is still in NAB custody but allowed to participate in sessions of the parliament, where he is a member of the National Assembly or lower house.

“We ran promotions for the interview for two days. Some of it was even run in news bulletins, and no one objected,” Mir said.

His Capital Talk is a popular nighttime talk show on Geo News, one of Pakistan’s leading news stations. Mir says no civilian authorities were involved in preventing Geo News from airing his interview, and the authorities had no reason to prevent it from reaching mass audiences.

Mohammad Tahir, a senior officer of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), says his organization was not involved in the interview being pulled.

“PEMRA had no role in it,” he told Radio Mashaal. He says his organization only evaluates programming once it is aired. “As a regulator, we do not control editorial polices,” he said. “[Television] channels are independent in their editorial policies and programming.”

It was not immediately possible to reach the Pakistani military’s media office.

But last year Asif Ghafoor, a military spokesman, rejected curbing the media. “We have never told any journalist or media owner what to say and what not to,” he told journalists. “We have always told them that Pakistan needs to unite, and we need to bring forward its strengths and success. I thank the media for their willing cooperation.”

Pakistan currently ranks 142nd out of 180 countries listed on Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.

“The Pakistani media, which have a long tradition of being very lively, have become a priority target for the country’s ‘deep state,’ a euphemism for the constant maneuvering by the military and military intelligence to subjugate civilians,” RSF says. “This military ‘establishment,’ which opposes independent journalism, stepped up its harassment of the media significantly in the run-up to the July 2018 general elections.”

In Islamabad Mir argues that by censoring his interview, Pakistani authorities are sending out a negative message about the country.

“By preventing this interview from broadcasting, the Pakistani state has told the whole world that our media is not free,” he said.

FILE: Reporters at work in the Tolo TV station in Kabul.

(Reuters) - The United States and Afghanistan have denounced a Taliban warning that Afghan media will be targeted unless they stop broadcasting what the group called "anti-Taliban statements".

Radio stations, TV channels and other media organizations had one week to stop transmitting "anti-Taliban advertisements", the group's military commission said in a statement on June 24.

"Those who continue doing so will be recognized by the group as military targets who are helping the Western-backed government of Afghanistan," it said, adding "reporters and staff members will not remain safe".

President Ashraf Ghani's office condemned the threats by the insurgent group, which has previously targeted reporters and employees of media organizations.

"Freedom of expression and attacks on media organizations is in contradiction to human and Islamic values," Ghani's office said in a statement on June 25.

The warning comes as Taliban leaders prepare for a seventh round of peace talks with U.S. officials aimed at finding a political settlement to end the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The next round of talks is scheduled to begin on June 29 in Doha.

John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said the Taliban should stop threatening Afghan journalists.

"More violence, against journalists or civilians, will not bring security and opportunity to Afghanistan, nor will it help the Taliban reach their political objectives," Bass said on Twitter.

Afghanistan was the deadliest country in the world to be a journalist in 2018, with 13 deaths according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The International Federation of Journalists said 16 journalists were killed last year.

With the international media presence in Afghanistan sharply reduced since the withdrawal of international troops in 2014, domestic media outlets have filled the gap but their work has become increasingly difficult.

In 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, the country's largest private broadcaster, killing seven journalists.

The Taliban said it killed the employees because Tolo was producing propaganda that supported the occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and its allies in their war against the insurgents.

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