State-owned radio and television offices attacked

New York, April 28, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent attack on the offices of Doordarshan Television and Radio Kashmir in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Five people were killed.

At about 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, assailants detonated a car laden with explosives near the main gate of an office complex housing the media outlets, both of which are owned by the Indian government. The attackers then threw a grenade into the security post outside the building and tried to enter the offices. A gunfight ensued, during which the three assailants and two security officers were killed.

Last week, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan made a conditional agreement to hold peace talks over Kashmir, which both countries claim. Since the agreement was announced, a surge of violent attacks in Kashmir has killed at least 30 people during the last 10 days.

A little-known group calling itself Al Madina Regiment claimed responsibility for the attack in phone calls to local media, according to Indian press reports. An unidentified caller who claimed to represent the group told Kashmir Press Service that, “We are not against a dialogue with India, but it should accept Kashmir as a disputed territory,” according to The Associated Press.

Separatist militants have targeted Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir before, as these state broadcasters are viewed as mouthpieces for the Indian government. Doordarshan station director Lassa Kaul, assassinated in February 1990, was the first journalist killed during the insurgency.

During the last year, the number of violent attacks against journalists and media facilities has spiked. On January 31, an unidentified gunman shot and killed Parvaz Mohammed Sultan, editor of the News and Feature Alliance, an independent, Srinagar-based wire service. The motive for his killing remains unconfirmed.

“We are deeply troubled by the increasing violence toward journalists in Kashmir,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “We urge all sides of the conflict to respect journalists and their right to report the news freely, without fear of attack.”