Journalists from a number of media organisations were assaulted while covering an anti-Occupy Central rally in Tsim Sha Tsui on the night of October 25 organised by the Blue Ribbon Movement, the Alliance in Support of Our Police Force and the Justice Alliance.
Six news unions and associations – the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Independent Commentators Association, the Next Media Trade Union, the Ming Pao Staff Association, the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, and Journalism Educators for Press Freedom – strongly condemn these attacks and the people behind them. The violent acts have trampled on press freedom and threatened journalists’ personal safety.
Hong Kong is a civilised society. But in recent times reporters covering the political upheaval now gripping the city have been subjected to a degree of violence not encountered before – on repeated occasions as well. Undoubtedly the issues and the temperament at play are extremely heated but the journalists have only been fulfilling their duty to keep the community informed. That is not the fault of the journalists or the media; they are merely reporting what exactly is happening on our streets in this current period. It is totally irrational to put the blame on journalists for reporting the truth.
Where, therefore, strongly urge
1. Organisers to shoulder their responsibility to maintain order and protect the participants, including the safety of reporters
The organiser of the October 25 event has claimed that the assaults of reporters were “isolated incidents” and were unrelated to the organiser. We emphasise that the organiser of the anti-Occupy function have turned a blind eye to the assaults. They were in no way “isolated incidents”.
We have reporters telling us that at a rally in support of the police held in Victoria Park on the night of October 19, some people took to the stage and expressed support to the ideas of using violence against Occupy protesters and journalists. The hosts of the rally did not stop those speakers. Nor did they stop people who treated reporters rudely and verbally abused reporters at the scene.
2. Reporters have the right to refuse to cover an event when they reasonably believe that their personal safety is at risk, and they should not be punished
We remind frontline journalists that when they reasonably believe that their personal safety is at risk, or that they cannot bear such safety risk, they have the right to refuse to take on the assignment. We also demand that managements of media organisations not discipline employees for refusing to work under these circumstances. If frontline reporters are unreasonably treated because of this, they should contact the Journalists Association.
3. Management should provide adequate safety gear and insurance for staff
We strongly advise management of media organisations to be concerned with the personal safety of frontline journalists, including providing them with adequate safety gear and insurance coverage.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Independent Commentators Association
Next Media Trade Union
Ming Pao Staff Association
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom
26 October 2014