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Hong Kong: Police harassed journalists covering massive protests (Demo)

This statement was originally published on on 10 June 2019.

In the early morning of 10 June (Monday, Hong Kong police removed roadblocks and dispersed protesters with force at Lung Wo Road. Reporters and photographers from various media organisations at the scene who were covering the protest were unreasonably removed by the police. HKJA made a solemn protest against the police for totally ignoring the safety of journalists and severely trampling on their right to reporting. We urge the police to investigate the incident and provide a satisfactory explanation.

HKJA has also made a request for a meeting with the Commissioner of Police, Mr Lo Wai-chung, in order to express the concerns of the media over the use of force and attempts by the police to interrupt the reporting work of journalists. Meanwhile, HKJA expresses regret about an incident that saw a cameraman being injured by an object being thrown by protesters toward the police. We urge the police to conduct an investigation into the incident.

According to information provided by some journalists who were at the scene, police took action after the protestors occupied Lung Wo Road around 1 am. Riot police with shields and crowd control barriers marched from the Legislative Council to Tamar Park and entered Lung Wo Road. Some reporters were insulted by police officers, who called them “rubbish”. Police used flashlights to stop reporters from shooting and they pushed reporters towards the barriers. The situation was extremely severe and dangerous.

At around 2 a.m., police officers kept marching towards reporters and expelled them unreasonably, ignoring the journalists’ safety. Officers shouted, “reporters have no special privilege”. Police claimed that they suspected reporters were possessing offensive weapons. A reporter had his backpack searched by officers. The reporter carried a valid press card.

The police soon escalated their action to remove blockages and expel protestors on Lung Wo Road by force at around 4am. They treated reporters with unnecessary force. This is despite the fact that the journalists had presented their press cards and were holding recording devices. The journalists’ safety was put in danger.

The police’s behaviour was relentless, paying no attention at all to journalists’ safety. Moreover, reporters at the scene merely carried out their duty to cover news and had every right to report on the police operation. Police officers have no right to drive them away from the scene, nor to stop journalists from covering the news. Their relentless behaviour is a violation of Police General Order Chapter 39, which stipulates that the police should facilitate the work of journalists and should not disrupt their work.

We urge the authorities to look into the incident, provide a satisfactory explanation and conduct a review. They should ensure that the safety of reporters is safeguarded.

HKJA has made a demand for a meeting with the Commissioner of Police, Lo Wai-chung, as soon as possible, to convey our concerns. In view of the fact that many journalists had received given unfair and unreasonable treatment, HKJA will provide assistance to those who want to lodge a formal complaint against the police to the Complaints Against Police Office.

Stop the police from harassing journalists

HKJA called on Chief Executive Carrie Lam to intervene immediately to stop the police from harassing journalists reporting on the massive demonstration against the Fugitive Transfer Bill

The union has received more than 15 complaints from journalists on the following trampling of reporters’ rights:

. Accusing journalists with a valid press pass of possessing offensive weapons and searching their bags;
. Forcing journalists with shields and batons to leave and causing injury to several individuals;
. Targeting retreating reporters with pepper spray, causing burns on their back and hands;
. Refusing to define and announce a no-man zone while driving reporters away with long shields and batons;
. Interrupting ​photo-taking and video shooting with the use of torches

All complainants said they displayed valid identification documents ​at prominent places and identified themselves at the time of the reported incidents, but the Police ignored all such efforts. These are outright infringements of the promised press freedom in Hong Kong.

An attempt to meet the Commissioner of Police to raise the issue has been refused.  Neither has a Tuesday meeting with the Police Public Relations Branch yielded any improvement.

Hong Kong people and the international community are watching the large-scale protest. It is important that whatever clearance the police planned be conducted under full media monitoring. It matters not only for the government’s accountability to its citizens but also for Hong Kong’s international reputation.

It is the job of the Chief Executive to safeguard the implementation of Basic Law Article 27 that promises our citizens press freedom. She should step in now.

The post Hong Kong: Police harassed journalists covering massive protests appeared first on IFEX.


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