Hamid Mir , our courageous colleague, has survived but after six bullets have been pumped into his body. His exceptionally alert driver deposited the grievously injured Hamid within minutes to the Agha Khan Hospital. God saved Hamid but his family and friends realized how easily he could have been dead. Understandably, Geo took Hamid’s brother Amir Mir on air who merely repeated what his brother had told him and several colleagues- that Hamid had said, in the case of anything happening to him, the ISI was to blame. Many of Hamid’s colleagues recalled the same conversation.

Instead of focusing on Hamid’s condition, Geo’s irresponsible sensationalism targeted the ISI and followed Amir Mir’s statement. It was a display of poor journalism and of terrible judgment. It confused average viewers, and diluted their intense focus on Hamid. Geo’s sensationalism became the dominant story. The professional media’s solidarity with Hamid remained intact but everyone tried to distance themselves from Geo’s initial charge.

The next 48 hours were largely lost to questioning Geo’s judgment as to why a conviction was made without an investigation. While some channels, journalists’ unions and most anchors expressed complete solidarity with Hamid Mir , they emphasized the need to be responsible and not sensational. In different ways they all reinforced the following; don’t pre-judge the case, stick to the basic principles of responsible journalism. Don’t rule out other possibilities, factor in Hamid’s fears but lets stay with the demand of an inquiry. Geo had partly diverted our focus from the deadly attack on Hamid, to now reiterating this over and over again.

Peoples’ guns were trained on us. The media we were being told, creates too many problems, deepens cleavages and exacerbates an already difficult situation. We were repeatedly reprimanded for dividing society, weakening the State and strengthening “the enemy.” Floodgates of criticism opened once more and all guns were pointed at us. We didn’t know how to use our freedoms, we were told. We were just looking for ratings at the cost of logical, sober and fact-based dialogue.

The media is yet again being declared the black sheep. Our defense was weak. Geo was the trend-setter; the default channel in Pakistan, and in the first few hours, it violated all principles of responsible journalism. For a channel that had spent years dealing with the former CJP with kids’ gloves on occasions when others saw violations in the CJP’s code of conduct, this extreme and baseless position was damaging for its own self, for Hamid Mir’s case and for journalism at large.

On the other extreme, we saw sections within ARY go many steps ahead of its own anti-Geo tirade. This time they decided to insinuate that the attack on Hamid was staged, that maybe it did not really happen, since “no blood” was visible on the car seat. A campaign to defame Hamid also began. The controversial Khalid Khawaja case involving Hamid resurfaced in ARY. Khalid Khawaja asked that the case be reopened. Of course, flood gates of old hostility and new ambitions sprang open.

We, as working journalists, have to run for cover of professionalism and self-accountability and of the other’s accountability too. In Hamid Mir’s case, two key questions that we will seek answers to are: who tried to kill Hamid? And was the ISI involved? While other groups cannot be completely ruled out, since Hamid named the ISI and since we are familiar with the institution’s past involvement in kidnapping, terrorizing and harrassing some journalists, it is not beyond suspicion. We ourselves sat through that night on Constitution Avenue demanding a judicial commission to inquire into our colleague Saleem Shehzad’s murder. I personally said on Dunya then, that circumstantial evidence pointed to the ISI. That is another story but yes, amongst the many serious problems that the Afghan war of the eighties inflicted on us, one has been the culture of intolerance and the lack of oversight of our intelligence agencies. In interaction with the media, the Justice Saqib Nisar Commisison report pointed to this problem.

Hamid especially, has a love-hate relationship with the ISI and it’s been more hate than love in recent years. Hamid is a journalist with whom I may differ on many issues and in many ways, but his courage I salute. His position on missing persons and on Baluchistan have been exceptionally brave.

While the Hamid Mir case is now under investigation, we know that there will be an outcome. Alongside it there is the fear that a new phase of tensions between the military and government may emerge. The government’s total silence on the way Geo began accusing the ISI chief prematurely was not wise. Some statement from the Ministry of Defence or Information reprimanding Geo and reminding it of the PEMRA Ordinance or its license obligations was needed. Instead, we saw the unprecedented announcement by ISPR of the army chief’s visit to the ISI headquarters. It was a solidarity visit and GHQ wanted that to be known.

Three days later, what we see are signs of difference between the Minister of Information and the Interior on how to deal with Geo. The Information Minister decided it was no issue, while the Interior Minister roundly criticized it. It’s the replay of confusion within the cabinet that we saw in the last few weeks over the Musharraf issue.

Everyone needs to be attentive to their responsibilities. The Prime Minister must lead with a wisdom that is uncompromising on Constitutionalism but not overshadowed by populism, imagined enemies or knee-jerk reactions. The government needs to put on its thinking hat.

Meanwhile for us, the media, much introspection and reform is needed. And to ensure that the insecurity within our work context is tackled, it is imperative that we know the masterminds behind the attempted target-killing of our colleague Hamid Mir .

 The writer is a columnist and senior anchor at Capital TV.

Tweets at:@NasimZehra