Oprah Winfrey’s first visit to India brought delighted coverage by the Indian media. Her meetings and tweetings with Bollywood stars, her bright orange sari, and her trips to slums and to the Taj Mahal were lovingly detailed by newspapers and TV outlets in that country.
Their love was not reciprocated, at least not by Winfrey’s security detail.
Police today detained three local bodyguards protecting Winfrey after they allegedly damaged journalists’ video equipment in a scuffle, according to international and local news reports. The incident occurred outside a temple Winfrey was visiting in Mathura, about 90 miles south of Delhi.
In a video posted by CNN-IBNLive, it appears that bodyguards lashed out at journalists for getting too close to the talk show icon. The three guards were released after writing an apology letter to the journalists, The Associated Press reported, citing Press Trust of India.
Violent attacks against journalists are common in India, according to CPJ research. CPJ has documented assaults on journalists in Kashmir, where clashes between Indian forces and insurgents put reporters at risk, and in Orissa, where reporting on industrialization and Maoists has met violent reprisal.
Worse, 27 journalists have been killed in India because of their work since 1992. Away from the glare of a celebrity visit, these attacks on journalists didn’t receive the same attention from police or Indian authorities. India ranks 13th on CPJ’s Impunity Index, meaning that its record of justice in the killings of journalists is among the world’s worst.
The message to Indian journalists? If you’re going to get attacked, don’t expect much help from your government–unless Oprah Winfrey is nearby.