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HKJA:Beijing should respect the freedom of the press

With the Jasmine Revolution going on in Africa, some netizens in China initiated their own action on the Internet. However, the Beijing government suppressed them and blacked out media coverage, totally suppressing the people's right to know what is happening and completely squelching press freedom.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association is deeply disturbed by the brutal behaviour of the Beijing authorities and appeals to the central authorities to respect the freedom of expression of the people and the freedom of the press.

According to information received from our members at the scene three Hong Kong journalists were taken away from the scene: the ATV reporter and cameraman were held for 1½ hours while the TVB reporter was in custody for 10 minutes. In addition ATV's SD card was wiped out in a deliberate act of curtailing press freedom. The card as well as its content is the property of ATV and eradication of its contents without the permission of the owners is a clear infringement of property rights.

This wanton trampling on the freedom of the press by law enforcement agents is contrary to the pledge given by the central government about respecting the monitoring role of the media. HKJA is especially concerned by the actions of the Foreign Ministry whose job is to interact with the international community.

According to regulations issued by the Foreign Ministry and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in 2008 and 2009 respectively, foreign and Hong Kong reporters can proceed with interviews if they have the consent of the individuals and organisations concerned. However, before and after February 27 the Foreign Ministry told reporters to get prior permission of government department. This was over-ruling the prior requirements of the Foreign Ministry and HKMAO, clearly obstructing journalists in the lawful pursuit of their occupations and demanding requirements over and above those already set out by the two authorities.

This is not the first time that the Foreign Ministry had gone beyond its own stated regulations. Responding to a CNN reporter who complained after being violently obstructed by plainclothes policemen in Shangdong province, its spokesman said on February 17 that he hoped the media would respect the “special circumstances of China, especially the wishes of the local people so as to avoid unhappy things happening.”

The Foreign Ministry's “request” clearly condones unreasonable obstruction and suppression of genuine journalistic work. It means the government will not protect journalists whose rights being curtailed by its muscle-boys

This only serves to illustrate the view that the authorities are taking a harder line to silence the growing advocacy of freedom of expression on the mainland. This may lead to further suppression of press freedom and may likely cause further physical assaults on journalists. The HKJA urges the central government to instruct all the relevant departments to respect the people's freedom of expression and press freedom. The HKJA also urges the authorities to ensure the safety of journalists.

The HKJA is also deeply disappointed with the Hong Kong Government as regards this matter. It is a matter of public knowledge that after the brutal suppression of the incident on February 27, the governments of the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Japan issued statements criticising the Beijing government's actions and urging the authorities to protect the personal safety of journalists. However, the Hong Kong Government did nothing except to ask for information from the central government and the ATV reporter.

This cannot protect the interests of Hong Kong citizens which they are entitled to.

HKJA, therefore, requests the SAR Government to relay our concerns to the chinese authorities and to adopt a more pro-active stance to protect Hong Kong people's rights and personal safety.




02/03/2011 15:56   updated more
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