Oprah's guards not only ones to assail Indian journalists

By Kristin Jones/CPJ Asia Program on January 19, 2012 2:11 PM ET

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.


I am reproducing below the report from the "local media" -- which is both more detailed and less alarming than the ABC report.

While I am mindful of the general situation of threats to journalists in India, and of course condemn them, this incident is hardly in the same ballpark. Moreover, it might be appropriate to report an additional statistic of "journalists killed per million population," in which, I suspect, India would not rank so poorly.

LUCKNOW: Three bodyguards of US reality television show host Oprah Winfrey were taken into custody by the police in Mathura following a scuffle with media persons in Vrindavan on Thursday. The popular TV host was in Mathura in connection with her latest reality show titled Next Chapter. The trio was later let off after they tendered a written apology in connection with the scuffle in which the equipments of some news channels were damaged.

The incident took place around 1.00 pm, when Oprah, flanked by two security men from America backed by another 12 odd bodyguards from a private Indian security agency reached Vrindavan and journalists, waiting for some sound and visual bytes, approached the TV personality. As cameramen tried to get closer to Oprah, the bodyguards who had formed a human chain around her, intercepted them. In the process some of the bodyguards allegedly pushed a couple of journalists back, leading to a scuffle in which equipment was damaged.

The situation turned ugly, when the journalists allegedly retaliated by pushing back the bodyguards. This triggered a free for all kind of situation.

Times of India (Lucknow edition), 20 January 2012

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