The proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance have evoked an avalanche of controversies in Hong Kong society. During the recent series of protests, journalists were unjustifiably dispersed, pushed away, verbally insulted, or even beaten by batons, shot by bean bag rounds by police officers in a number of occasions. The Hong Kong Journalists Association has received a total of 29 cases of complaints by journalists against police officers for alleged excessive use of force and obstruction of their reporting. Of them, 27 have been submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Council for investigation.
On June 11, representatives of HKJA and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association met with officers from Police’s Public Relations Branch. At the meeting, we demanded Police to be abide by the Police Force Ordinance to facilitate media reporting. But journalists had been driven and pushed away, verbally abused and even beaten up by police officers on several occasions in the large-scale protests and clearance operation on June 12. During the march in West Kowloon on July 7, reporters had again been pushed away by a team of police officers armed with batons without justifiable reasons.
Time and again, journalists have been struggling to keep themselves safe. The irony is that the major source of threat came from the law-enforcing police officers on the spot. How can the media fully serve the role of the fourth estate, especially in monitoring the exercise of public powers? In addition to acts of dispersion, verbal abuses and even attacks, we recently noticed the Police has disseminated information through their own videos. On several occasions, the Chief Executive has attended public functions without giving media notices. They have caused concerns that the Government was trying to avoid journalists by resorting to one-way dissemination of information, seeking to turn reporters into mouthpieces.
The last thing journalists want is to hit headlines. But we must stand up to vent out our fury through in the form of silence. Seven media organisations and unions today launched a silent march to demand Chief Executive Carrie Lam to honour the Pledge to Uphold Press Freedom she signed in the 2017 chief executive election forum and to defend the press freedom of Hong Kong. They are civic rights protected under Basic Law Article 27.
This is because we firmly believe freedom of expression and freedom of the press are the cornerstones of Hong Kong and core values that must not be allowed to be damaged. The administrative and law-enforcement of powers must also be subjected to supervision.
We demand Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the senior management of the Police to face up to the problem of abuses of power and acts of obstruction and attack against journalists by police officers. They should immediately launch an inquiry conducted by independent figures with credibility. They should thoroughly investigate into whether the unjustifiable acts of police officers were the results of orders from their senior management. Mrs Lam and senior police management should order an immediate end of the practice of one-way dissemination of news information. They should face the media in open sessions.
We hope the Chief Executive and top police management will give clear and firm response, not to ignore our clear and simple demands. We hope they will not merely give terse remarks as if they have already responded, nor hide behind the defence line of their front-line officers and water barriers.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Independent Commentators Association
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom
Ming Pao Staff Association
Next Media Trade Union
RTHK Programme Staff Union
14 July 2019