Since the social movement in Hong Kong lasted for more than four months, the attitude of frontline police officers towards the media has worsened. Last night (October 27), during the operation in Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui, a number of riot police officers arbitrarily obstructed reporters from reporting and filming. They unreasonably pushed reporters and pulled their anti-virus masks, and also deliberately sprayed reporters with blue-dye water and launched rubber bullets, which caused many journalists to be injured. After receiving police officer’s identity, a female journalist was detained for seven hours without any reason. She was later released on bail. The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association strongly condemn the police for obstructing press freedom. We reiterate that only the truth is recorded under the lens of the media. Police officers must be open and honest in their duties and immediately stop using violence.
The Government has earlier enacted the “Prohibition of Masks” to specify that “Persons engaged in professional or employed work” can be exempted. The Secretary for Security, Mr Lee Ka-chiu, also publicly indicated that reporters were included in the exemption. However, when the media were reporting yesterday, they were constantly obstructed by the riot police, and many reporters were forced to take off their masks. Some riot police officers even said that the ban mask law had already taken effect, and the reporter was not exempted. The relevant handling methods obviously run counter to the Secretary’s commitment.
Among those cases, a female reporter who provided photos for the local English media “Hong Kong Free Press” was reporting in Mong Kok last night, she was asked to remove the cover, present her press card and identity card to the police. She was shackled, surrounded by several police officers and arrested. The female reporter held a press card issued by HKJA, wearing a fluorescent vest. She was detained at 6:30 in the morning and was allowed to sign a $100 bail. The police did not make any charges but she must report to the police station in mid-November.
Journalists are committed to defending press freedom with due diligence and straightforward writing, and should not be unnecessarily obstructed or suppressed. We sincerely request the SAR Government to promptly restrict the ever-expanding police power; and urge Mr Lee Ka-chiu to keep his promise and clearly instruct the police to stop using prohibition of face covering regulation to obstruct the media.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
28 October 2019