Following the implementation of the Prohibition of Face Covering Regulation (“PFCR”) in Hong Kong on October 5, 2019, the HKJA has today sought most urgent clarification from the Secretaries for Justice and Security as well as the Commissioner of Police, regarding the applicability of the regulations to journalists engaged in journalistic activities during public order events.
This urgent clarification comes after the HKJA has received numerous complaints from journalists who have, since the implementation of the regulations, been ordered by police, often in an aggressive manner, to remove their masks. These demands have been made by police despite the journalists clearly displaying their press credentials and wearing high visibility vests and helmets marked “Press”. On occasions, journalists have had their masks violently removed by police.
The HKJA has therefore sought most urgent clarification that (in summary):-
i. The Government accept that journalists covering public order events will not be considered by police officers to be participating in such events, and that their conduct of journalistic work at such events is lawful;
ii. A journalist who wears a facial covering in the course of reporting on a public order event does not commit an offence under the PFCR; and
iii. Police officers have been instructed, or will now be instructed that:
a. where a person is conducting lawful journalistic work, police officers should not direct them to remove their facial covering whether under Regulation 5 of the PFCR or for any other reason; and
b. In a case where Regulation 5 of the PFCR has been invoked and an officer seeks to verify that a person concerned is a journalist, the officer shall present his warrant card and remove his facial covering so that the journalist may likewise verify the identity of the officer and record the warrant number of the officer invoking Regulation 5; and immediately after the journalist’s identity is verified against press accreditation, the journalist may replace the facial covering if they see fit.
Given the lack of express and unambiguous exemption of journalists from the PFCR, the HKJA considers such clarification to be essential in order to avoid misunderstanding, confrontation, harassment and possible false arrest of local and overseas journalists covering the HK protests.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
8 October 2019