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India 15 May 2006

Separatist threats against cable TV operators in Kashmir

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about threats by separatist groups against cable TV operators in Kashmir during the past week that led operators to suspend some entertainment channels.

“Over the years, armed separatist groups have become more and more threatening towards the media in Kashmir,” the organisation said. “We call on all the separatist movements to stop intimidating journalists and let them work freely. We also urge the authorities to ensure that the equipment and premises of cable TV operators are protected.”

The latest wave of threats began on 9 May when operators suspended four channels - Star Movie, Star World, AXN and Reality TV - as a result of pressure from a rebel group called the al Madina Regiment, which described them as “obscene.”

Other militant groups visited the offices of operators in Srinagar over the next few days and threatened them, prompting them to suspend 40 stations on 10 May. They nonetheless resumed service the next day after receiving support from the police and certain organisations such as Hizbul Mujahideen, the leading militant group in Kashmir.

Operators suspended service again on 12 May after being threatened with suicide attacks and after complaining that they were not getting enough police protection.

After more than 150 media workers staged a demonstration against the threats in Srinagar on 13 May and several militant groups voiced support for the operators, distribution of most of the cable stations resumed yesterday.

At least five journalists were injured in indiscriminate bombings by radical separatists last year, while 10 others were physically attacked by police.

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