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Journalists assaulted while covering anti-government protests

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 18 Jan. 2012 - Protesters and policemen allegedly assaulted numerous reporters covering peaceful anti-government protests that degenerated into violence in Bucharest between 15 and 16 January. It appeared that the journalists were deliberate targets. Catalin Lupasteanu, from the Mediafax news agency, said that he was beaten up by the police although he shouted: "Press! Press!"

Several employees of Bucharest-based Antena 3 TV were injured. Most of them were reportedly victims of protesters' violence. Adrian Anghel was hit by an inflammable object. Alexandru Capraru suffered a head injury when hit by a stone. Petre Nichita was hit by a metal bar and suffered head injuries. Dragos Stoian was hit by a metal chain and Carmina Othman's hair was set on fire. The car belonging to the Romanian public broadcaster TVR was stoned by protesters.

Meanwhile, Lucian Negrea from the DC News Website was allegedly beaten by riot police. The scene was filmed. Some other reporters, including Radu Lungu, were briefly detained. Cristian Zarescu (Romania TV) reported being assaulted by the police. The exact number of journalists assaulted, either by protesters or the police, is not known. The Romanian Press Club called police actions excessive. Some assaulted journalists had their press cards visibly displayed. Sources told the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a subsidiary of the International Press Institute (IPI), that some journalists did not have experience or training in conflict reporting and volatile situations.

SEEMO expressed profound concern at the level of violence against reporters covering the clashes. "Beating up journalists does not promote press freedom and it does not guarantee well-balanced information," Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General, said.

He added: "I urge the police authorities to investigate all cases of violence against journalists during the demonstrations. Every single person who used force - whether protester or police officer - should be sanctioned. Silencing journalists is silencing freedom. Romania is an EU country and has to respect international standards. Violence is not acceptable."

Vujovic also stated: "Media owners should train journalists in how to act when covering conflict situations."

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