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For Immediate Release
12 April 1996

Vikram Parekh
(212) 465-1004 x109

Kashmiri Editor Found Slain Three Weeks After Abduction

Press Freedom Advocates Condemn Murder, Urge Investigation

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today condemned the slaying of Ghulam Rasool Sheikh, a Kashmiri newspaper editor whose body was found in the state's Jhelum River on Wednesday. Sheikh is the sixth journalist to be killed in the Indian-held state since 1990, when a simmering separatist movement exploded into a full-scale war.

"Sheikh's murder hints at a new ruthlessness in stamping out press freedom in Kashmir," said Vikram Parekh, CPJ's program coordinator for Asia, who visited the strife-torn state last year. "Certainly, by failing to fully investigate such slayings, the Indian government is abetting that process," he added.

Sheikh had been missing since late March, when family members say he was kidnapped by an Indian-backed militia. Local police, on the other hand, contend that he was abducted and slain by separatist guerrillas. The editor of two minor Kashmiri newspapers, the Urdu daily Rehnuma-e-Kashmir and the English-language weekly Saffron Times, Sheikh had recently spoken out against an increase in killings and arson incidents in the vicinity of his hometown, Pampur. Sheikh was also the head of an Islamic trust that is responsible for shrine and mosque management in the area. Doctors performed an autopsy Wednesday, but local reporters said the details had not yet been released. Sheikh's colleagues in the Kashmiri press called for a judicial inquiry into his murder, a demand endorsed by CPJ.

The editor's slaying closely paralleled the recent murder of Kashmiri lawyer and human rights activist Jalil Andrabi, whose body was discovered floating in the Jhelum river on March 27. Andrabi's wife reported that her husband had not been seen since his arrest by Indian army officers on March 8.

"Kashmiri journalists routinely face intimidation by militant separatists, Indian troops and, more recently, renegade militants supported by the Indian army," Parekh said.

Several recent assaults remain unresolved, including two assassination attempts. Last December, unidentified gunmen abducted and shot Zee Television correspondent Zafar Meraj, as he was returning from an interview with an Indian-backed militia leader. Meraj is currently recovering in New Delhi. Three months earlier, on Sept. 7, Agence France-Presse photographer Mushtaq Ali was killed when he opened a letter bomb addressed to Yusuf Jameel, the Srinagar correspondent for the BBC and Reuters.

Earlier attacks on the Kashmiri press are documented in detail in CPJ's 1995 report, On a Razor's Edge: Local Journalists Targeted by Warring Parties in Kashmir. Based in New York, CPJ is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to upholding press freedom worldwide.

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