In response to Thailand’s charging of a Hong Kong photo journalist for carrying body armour and a helmet, the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong have issued the following statement:
We are deeply dismayed by the Thai authorities’ charging of Anthony Kwan Hok Chun, who was assigned by Initium Media Technology last week to cover the aftermath of the Erawan shrine bomb. Two Hong Kong residents were killed and six injured in the bombing a week ago.
Mr Kwan is being charged under the 1987 Arms Control Act, which prohibits the possession of military equipment without a licence. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to five years, and will be tried in a military court. The court has granted him bail on 100,000 Thai Baht (about HK$21,000) but barred him from leaving the country.
However, body armour and a helmet are not offensive weapons. They are routine protective gear used by journalists around the world to enable them to work in dangerous situations, and Mr Kwan’s equipment was in line with that.
We urge the Thai authorities not to press ahead with the criminal case against Mr Kwan and to work with the media community in Thailand to decriminalise the legitimate use of body armour and other relevant protective items.
We also urge the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to push for an immediate release of Mr Kwok to Hong Kong and the quashing of the charge against him.
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Hong Kong Journalists Association
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong
24 Aug 2015