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Journalist, family, attacked with acid in India

 Dinesh Choudhary was attacked after reporting on illegal tobacco sales. Above, chewable tobacco is displayed at a roadside vendor near New Delhi. (AP/Saurabh Das)

New York, March 13, 2013--A journalist and his family were attacked with acid Tuesday in India's western state of Maharashtra, allegedly in connection with his reporting on illegal tobacco sales, according to local media.

Police said the attackers entered the home of Dinesh Choudhary, 40, in the neighborhood of Tilak Nagar in Purna town in Parbhani district late on Tuesday night, threw acid on Choudhary and his wife and daughter, and fled, according to the reports. Police identified one of the attackers as a local Congress Party worker named Syed Ali, who remains at large, and said at least three other suspects were in custody, according to the reports.

Choudhary, a Purna-based district correspondent with the Marathi-language daily Solapur Tarun Bharat, had written about the illegal sale of tobacco in and around Parbhani district, reports said. Narayan Karanjkar, the editor of the daily, told the local press that the attack was instigated by Syed Ali in relation to Choudhary's critical reports on the tobacco mafia.

"Journalists who uncover corruption and wrongdoing are often on the front lines, but their families are not usually targeted.  This is a particularly cowardly and despicable act and the authorities must bring the perpetrators to justice," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "A free press is vital to a democracy such as India, so attacks on journalists cannot go unpunished."

The journalist, his wife Arsana, and teenaged daughter Rashmi were taken to a local hospital, where they are in serious but stable condition, according to local reports.

India ranks among the world's worst countries for combating violent anti-press crime. The world's largest democracy ranks 12th on CPJ's Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country's population.

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