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Crowd attacks Indian journalists covering elections

Opposing political groups clashed today after local election results were announced. Here, an election officer counts votes. (AFP/Prakash Singh)

New York, March 6, 2012--A large crowd attacked a group of about 100 Indian journalists covering local election results in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday and damaged their equipment, according to news reports. The journalists were forced to lock themselves in a school for several hours to protect themselves from the violence, news reports said.

"Political leaders bear responsibility for the lawless actions of their supporters, and police for their inability to enforce order," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Authorities must ensure that journalists can cover elections without fearing for their safety."

The journalists were reporting at a school that doubled as an election center in the city of Jhansi, according to news reports. After the results were announced, clashes erupted between supporters of the losing Samjavadi Party candidate Chandrapal Singh Yadav, and the winning Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Krishna Pal Singh, news reports said.

Toward the evening, members of a crowd that had grown as large as 4,000 turned against the journalists, assaulting them and damaging their cameras and vehicles, Vinod Gautam, a freelance journalist with national news channel NDTV, told CPJ. "Since then, the police were completely outnumbered by the crowds. They did nothing to help us," he said. No significant injuries were reported in news accounts.

The journalists locked themselves inside the school and waited for help to arrive, Gautam said. They were finally able to leave the building early Wednesday morning, he said.

The Delhi Union of Journalists criticized the administration's slow reaction to helping the journalists, saying at the time, "It is deplorable that despite repeated appeals to police stationed nearby and higher police officials, no action has been taken to free the journalists," news reports said.

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