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News media expand, but freedom lags in Kashmir

UPDATE: In Indian Kashmir, concerns over Internet censorship (CPJ, 4 October 2012)

(CPJ/IFEX) - 27 August 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Mannika Chopra/CPJ Guest Blogger

Early this month, newspaper offices in Indian-controlled Kashmir received a note warning journalists to be more supportive of the Kashmir independence movement, according to the leading national daily, The Times of India citing a news agency in the state's summer capital, Srinagar. No militants took responsibility this time, but in mid-March insurgent groups issued a joint message that urged journalists to "highlight the pain and suffering of Kashmiris because of oppressive state policies."

Facing intimidation from multiple sides is all part of being a journalist in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Just last November, officers of the Central Reserve Police Force, a government security agency, assaulted journalists on assignment in downtown Srinagar, according to New Delhi-based Tehelka magazine.

Ever since the region was first wracked by conflict 23 years ago, the media have faced attacks from militant groups and state agencies. At least 10 journalists have been killed in the region since 1992 -- mostly by unidentified assailants -- and many others have been wounded. Journalists have been jailed, photographers beaten, equipment seized, telephones tapped, websites blocked, emails hacked, social networking sites scrutinized, and text messages banned.

"The media, while they are not being targeted or harassed systematically as they were 20 years ago, continue to be vulnerable," veteran journalist Yusuf Jameel told me by telephone from Srinagar.

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