'Threats' Shut Kashmir Cable TV
10 May 2006
Srinagar: Cable television operators in Indian administered Kashmir say that they have indefinitely cancelled programming after threats from militant groups. They say they have been warned that all programmes must be permanently off air within the next 10 days. The operators say they have been targeted because their broadcasts are deemed to be obscene by some militants. However the main militant group says the shut-down has been orchestrated to divert attention from a sex scandal. The owner of the main cable TV company in Srinagar told the BBC that the decision to stop programming was taken after several of their offices in the city were visited by militant groups complaining about the 'depraved' nature of their output. Ahmed Amjad said that his staff were not receiving sufficient police protection. The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says that all cable programmes - including news channels, documentaries, Western films and Hindi movies - are no longer available. The threats against the cable companies are reported to emanate from the little-known Al- Madina Regiment militant group which warned them they would 'face severe consequences' if they did not cease their programming within 10 days. Forty channels are affected, including Star Movies, AXN, Reality TV and Star World. Correspondents say that cable TV is valued by some Kashmiris as a way of escaping the horrors of an insurgency by militants opposed to Indian rule. But there has been disquiet in recent weeks over the 'indecent' nature of some of the broadcasts. The main militant group in Indian-administered Kashmir has, however, denied issuing the threat. A statement released by the Hizbul Mujahideen group to a local news agency said that news of the turn-off was a 'diversion' organised by the authorities to distract public attention from a sex scandal. Violent protests broke out in Srinagar last week after allegations that a number of senior government and police officials are alleged to be involved in a prostitution ring. On Wednesday, lawyers in the city boycotted courts over the issue. The Bar Association has demanded that a special investigation team be set up under court supervision to monitor the case. The president of Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Mian Abdul Qayoom, said they were concerned that police had so far not disclosed the names of those alleged to be involved in the scandal.