Hong Kong Journalists Association and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association are extremely disappointed by the police’s blockade of the Polytechnic University and all roads to the campus, which tightened the restrictions on press freedom.
At about 10 pm on November 17, the Police Public Relations Branch suddenly announced that the Polytechnic University campus would be blocked. All personnel inside the campus including journalists, would be arrested as being involved in the riots unless they were able to produce proof of the three types of journalists covered by police routine. The restrictions caused the following unreasonable phenomena:
1. Although some student reporters were allowed to leave with the assistance of HKJA, at least 13 student reporters and online media reporters were arrested;
2. Although journalists produced valid credentials, they still needed to be searched by the police before leaving;
3. The police only allowed media organisations that are already present to rotate journalists on a “one-for-one” basis, it is forbidden to send other members of the same organisations to the campus if the reporter has already evacuated. Due to the restrictions of the “one for one” measure, a large number of freelance journalists who serve foreign media are forced to leave after their equipment ran out of batteries;
4. Three reporters were shot with pepper guns at close range; four shift reporters were forbidden to enter the scene at gunpoint; a photographer with a valid press card was asked by the police to kneel and unlock his phone.
The above arrangements not only seriously violate the provisions on press freedom in the Basic Law, but also weaken the media’s monitoring of police action. We urge the police to rectify immediately and open the scene for reporting. In the past two days, student reporters were allowed to leave after proof of identity, we hope this arrangement can be continued.
The two associations reiterated that Article 27 of the Basic Law stipulates that all Hong Kong residents shall enjoy the freedom of expression, press and publishing, which also cover in the articles 16 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Right.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
20 November 20192019