Twenty-six journalists have testified on abuses against the press by police officers during the demonstrations against the Fugitive Transfer Bill, those abuses have not only caused journalists bodily harm but also infringed upon the press freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association called for the Chief Executive to set up an independent committee to ascertain whether top level order was the cause of these wide-spread and violent abuses. A complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has also been filed by the union today to demand an investigation into individual cases.
These cases were the result of an appeal to the profession between 10 June and 14 June. The Association has conducted interviews with all the journalists affected in all the cases for the sake of accuracy and authenticity. All the photographs and videos were provided by the journalists affected or his or her witnessing peers. Other than a few journalists who were concerned about their safety or their employers’ policies, all have agreed to provide their background information to the IPCC.
The abuses can be summarized as follows: (Please refer to Appendices for details)
- Ten cases of police officers firing tear gas bombs at journalists at close range (Case B1, B2, B15, B4, B5, B6, B8, B9, B7, B14). Of those, three journalists were hit at their heads. (Case B4、B8、14);
- Three case of journalists being chased and then hit with batons by police officers, causing them bodily harm or property loss. (Case B3、B11、B12);
- One case of journalist wounded by object believed to be rubber bullet or bean bag round (case B10);
- Eight cases of police officers pushing journalists away from the scene with shields and batons (Case A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, B13), making it impossible for the press to report. Officers at the scene refusing to define the sealed-off zone despite repeated questions from journalists. At least one journalist was hurt(Case A4) ;
- Two cases of projecting strong lights at cameras, making filming impossible (Case A7, A10);
- Three cases of search without causes and obstructing journalists from reporting (Case A1, A12, B11).
There is little chance that these cases being merely caused by chaos and misunderstanding. All the cases meet all of the following criteria:
- The journalists affected had displayed their press identification, including press cards, reflective vests or helmets with the word “PRESS” inscribed;
- The journalists affected have clearly informed the officer(s) that they were members of the press;
- The journalists affected were not standing among the protesters when the incidents happened.
The Association has therefore sufficient reasons to believe that those abusive officers were fully aware of their journalists’ identity. By directing forces and intimidation at persons clearly identifiable as journalists, these officers have overstepped its lawful powers in maintaining public order.
The scale and degree of these abuses cannot be explained with the stress caused by 30-hours work as suggested by the Police. An independent investigation is necessary to ascertain whether they were backed by top level order.
We would not under-estimate the difficulty in this investigation given the lack of identification on many officers involved. Many of them had their face fully masked and wore no badge number. We sincerely look for not only a best effort probe but also recommendations from the IPCC on this identification issue in the future.
A media that can do its job without fear is of utmost importance in the balance of police power and public safety as well as the protection of the public’s right to know.
Basic Law Article 27 states: “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike”.
Police General Orders Chapter 39 Clause 5 stipulates: “All officers at the scene of an incident shall:- (a) facilitate the work of the news media as much as possible and accord media representatives consideration and courtesy; and (b) not block camera lenses. “
Hong Kong Journalists Association
17 June 2019