Recent press reports said the Government and the Police are conducting studies on the issuing of official press cards and identification items and other methods for the purpose of identifying reporters covering protests. Journalist unions, groups and academics solemnly opposes any official selection of journalists arrangements, which will inevitably undermine press freedom and the public’s right to know.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied that the government has intention of issuing official press cards. But she has not touched upon the possibility of issuing other forms of press identification. We believe speculation about official press identification arrangement is not groundless. To state our clean position is a must. Media plays the role of fourth power in the society, monitoring the exercise of power by the Government. Any arrangements that allow the Government to select journalists through official identification in reporting in public places will no doubt limit the room of freedom of reporting. That will not be conducive to free flow of information and truth-finding.
The fact is that reporters have been coordinating with the Police in their law-enforcement in the recent protests and conflicts between the Police and protesters. Police officers have been able to identify journalists from their dress, equipment, activities and press cards. Any arrangement of official identification items for the selection of journalists reporting in public places is unnecessary. More worryingly, such arrangements could be easily abused and turned into a tool for police officers to conduct stop-and-search and drive away reporters.
Furthermore, the requirements for the application of official identification can be arbitrarily changed. Those who refuse to accept the official identification or whose application fails will face more threats and risks in their reporting activities.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Independent Commentators Association
International Federation of Journalists
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom
Ming Pao Staff Association
Next Media Trade Union
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
RTHK Programme Staff Union
Hong Kong Free Press
19 October 2019