It has been couple of months since I took up the chairmanship. I hope you don’t mind my sending this first message after such a long delay. At the very beginning, the new Executive Committee was busy with sorting out internal division of labour and planning for the year ahead. I dared not write to you earlier without any concrete plan. But a series of issues involving reporters’ rights kept your union fully engaged. Now I have to put aside some things at hand to express my gratitude to some friends and colleagues.
As you saw from media reports, your union co-organised a march to fight for press freedom in protesting against the Urumqi government for their assaults on journalists and falsely shifting the blame on reporters by accusing them of inciting social unrest. More than 700 journalists, journalism teachers and students as well as members of the public were gathered before the march proceeded. Some participants even put the figure at 1,000 after the event was completed. Whatever the figure we set a record for journalists’ participation in a march. This is encouraging and we should give ourselves a big hand.
With only three days to organize, the success of the protest march depended totally on the efforts of the whole Executive Committee of your union. Apart from thanks for their coming up with slogans and the meticulous planning, special thanks should go to Phyllis Tsang for gathering information, to Chan Kin Kai for her production of ribbons and slogan boards, to Ambrose Leung for his recruitment of volunteers, to David Cheng, the executive staff who arranged to borrow most of the materials, and to Steve Chan for his effort in cleaning up these borrowed materials before returning them to the owners.
I also have to take my hat off to the volunteers who ran around to keep the procession in line under a broiling sun. They are Ho Man-man, Chan Pui-man, Ronson Chan Long-sing, Cheung Lai-shan, Jeff Pao, Hui Wai-yin, Jonathan Lai Wai-ka, Ho Hiu-kan, Chum Shun-jin, Patsy Ho, Maisy Lo, Ho So Man and Martin Lam.
Last but not least, thanks also go to all those who took to the street that day. Without their participation, there would not have been a successful march, no matter how hard we worked behind the scene. Their participation was a display of solidarity for justice for our victimised front line reporters.
While the support from the media industry as well as the public is obvious, I am aware that there is some disquiet about journalists getting involved in a protest march. There are some who believe a journalist should be an observer rather than a participant. Journalist should report matters of public interest. It boggles their imagination that journalists should become the focus of Xinjiang’s social unrest. Some journalists are concerned that the younger generation may adopt such protest actions when they get blamed, assaulted or come under investigation in order to win glory.
I believe such thinking is a bit far-fetched. In principle, journalists should not be involved in news event so as to maintain objectivity in reporting. However, press freedom can and is also a news issue. When press freedom is trampled upon and becomes an issue, the reporter or reporters naturally becomes the main focus. I see no reason for holding back on involvement just because journalists are involved. It is like telling yourself to stop eating for fear of choking.
Giving up eating for fear of choking is not our choice. Whenever press freedom is in danger, your union will fight for all it is worth to uphold journalistic rights. And we hope you will always be there to back us up.
15th September, 2009