New York, September 18, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns yesterday’s attack on Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, a prominent editor in Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu and Kashmir State.
Two young men entered the offices of Sofi, editor of the popular Urdu-language daily Srinagar Times, at about 6:30 p.m. yesterday and opened fire. Sofi’s bodyguard attempted to block the assailant and was shot in the thighs. The editor was hospitalized for a bullet injury to his right hand and is now recuperating at home.
The attack on Sofi was one of several violent incidents that occurred in the state as polling for legislative elections began. Although more than 20 political activists have been killed in the last six weeks alone, this was the first serious attack involving a journalist.
Some militant organizations fighting for independence for Kashmir or accession to neighboring Pakistan have threatened to assassinate those who participate in or support the elections, which they believe confer legitimacy on Indian rule. India and Pakistan have competing claims over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Sofi told CPJ that his newspaper has been attacked nine times since 1989, when fighting between the government and insurgents in Muslim-majority Kashmir flared into civil war. However, this was the first time that he came face-to-face with his assailants.
“We don’t know who is behind this attack,” Sofi said. “But the attackers have failed to fulfill their objective,” he added, noting that he had spent some time at his offices today. The Srinagar Times is an independent newspaper that has supported the state elections.
The United Jihad Council, a Pakistan-based organization representing about 14 militant groups active in Kashmir, released a threatening statement only hours before the attack on Sofi. “Mujahideen (warriors) are aware of the black sheep among journalists and warn them to mend their ways,” said the statement, according to The Associated Press.
Nine journalists have been killed in Kashmir since 1989, according to CPJ research.