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President Miloš Zeman gives a victory speech in Prague after being reelected on January 27. Reporters covering the Czech presidential election say they were harassed and verbally assaulted. (AFP/Radek Mica)

Reporters harassed, verbally assaulted covering Czech presidential election

January 29, 2018 1:38 PM ET

Journalists covering election night at the Czech presidential campaign headquarters in a Prague hotel on January 27, 2018, were verbally assaulted, shoved, and prevented from filming, according to reports and videos posted to social media.

Video footage published by the Czech commercial TV station Nova shows a group of men, described in some reports as supporters of the president, attempting to prevent journalists from filming Milan Rokytka, a writer for the news and commentary portal Parlamentní listy, who had collapsed on the floor of the hotel where the incumbent Czech President, Miloš Zeman, claimed victory.

Another video recorded and published on Twitter by Pavlína Kosová, a reporter for the TV station Seznam, shows at least three men forcibly removing journalists from the room where Rokytka had collapsed, holding their hands over the journalists' cameras or pulling equipment to the ground, and in at least one case, shoving a reporter. One video showed a man trying to punch a reporter who was filming the incident with a cell phone. A couple of the reporters who were present reported that the men verbally abused them.

Czech police are investigating the incident for breach of peace, and one of the journalists has filed a complaint, according to a report citing police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova.

Emergency services were called to treat Rokytka, the journalist who collapsed, according to reports.

The spokesman for President Zeman sent a text message apologizing to Kosová and condemning the attack, her station's editor in chief told reporters.

The presidential spokesman did not immediately respond to CPJ's request for comment.

Zeman has made several hostile remarks about the press during his term in office. On the first day of his presidency in 2013, he stated that some journalists were "brainwashing people" and "manipulating opinion," and in 2017, he joked with Russia's President Vladimir Putin that there were too many journalists and some should be "liquidated, " according to reports. Also last year, during a press conference, Zeman was pictured waved a mock rifle with "for journalists" written on one side, which he said had been given to him as a gift, according to reports.

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