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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 15:43 GMT
India launches Kashmir TV channel

The television channel is aimed at Kashmiris

By Lewis Macleod of BBC Monitoring

India has launched a new terrestrial TV channel targeted at the disputed region of Kashmir.

It will include "the best of Indian broadcasting", including programmes from private satellite channels such as Star TV, Zee and Sony.

Kashmir Conflict
About half the daily output of 16 hours will be in Kashmiri, and the rest in local dialects.

From April, it will also be broadcast via satellite.

Indian Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley has made it clear that the new terrestrial TV channel is also intended to be seen "across the border", i.e. in Pakistan.

Tense region

The political and military context for the launch could hardly be more difficult, however.

Satellite broadcasts will begin in April

Fresh clashes this month along the Line of Control dividing Indian and Pakistani forces in Kashmir have seen the worst fighting in the region since the Kargil conflict last summer.

That brought the two countries close to war for the third time over the Himalayan region.

Mr Jaitley's predecessor as information and broadcasting minister, Pramod Mahajan, announced a $100m package last July, to upgrade and improve the state television network, Doordarshan, and All India Radio services in Kashmir.

The package was intended as part of the information war that India believed it was losing to Pakistan.

Information war

In the light of a 10-year insurgency and given the extreme sensitivity of both India and Pakistan to the Kashmir issue, objective reporting is commonly sacrificed for security and propaganda reasons.

Arun Jaitley: Broadcasting 'across the border'

India's ban on the distribution of Pakistan Television programmes, imposed in June 1999 at the height of the Kargil conflict, was not lifted until late October.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's democratically elected government was ousted in the military coup of October 1999.

News programmes, though, changed little, since broadcasting has traditionally been controlled by the government of the day, with a heavy emphasis on Pakistan's claim to Kashmir and perceived Indian human-rights violations there.

However, earlier in January, Javed Jabbar, information adviser to the chief executive, General Pervez Musharraf, said that the government was in favour of evolving a framework that would ensure freedom of expression in the electronic media.

Mr Jabbar chaired a brainstorming session of leading media figures that reached a consensus on the need to allow private radio and television channels.

But such a development had to be seen in the context of national security concerns and the overall national interest, Jabbar said, referring to the "media posture adopted by a big neighbourly country".

That country had "heavily invested in the media with a view to indulging in propaganda against Pakistan," he said.

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See also:
04 Jul 99 |  Monitoring
Delhi's information offensive
21 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Kargil's theatre of war
21 Oct 99 |  South Asia
India lifts Pakistan TV ban
23 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Playing up the Kargil factor
20 Aug 99 |  South Asia
India bans Kargil documentaries
17 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Kashmir 'war still on'

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