The Hong Kong police today wrote to four media associations, announcing that it will revise the definition of media representatives under its Police General Orders. Under the amendment, media workers holding the Hong Kong Journalists Association and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association press passes are no longer recognised as media representatives. Only those working for media outlets registered with the Hong Kong government, or “renowned and well-known” non-local outlets will be identified as media representatives.
We strongly oppose the police’s hasty decision. We must point out that the relevant guidelines have been in place for years, and that they were a product of detailed discussion between the police and media representatives.
Today, the police have broken this relationship by planning to make a significant amendment without first discussing and consulting our sector. We demand the police to scrap the relevant amendment, or we will respond by taking any possible and necessary measures.
In the letter, the police cited the discovery of “fake reporters”, whom they claimed had obstructed and attacked officers, as a reason for the amendment. But the police had not provided concrete proof of these incidents, which, even if true, are unconnected to the HKJA and HKPPA. It is unreasonable for the police to make the amendment against the two associations.
Hong Kong Journalists Association has 604 full members, who are eligible to apply for a press pass from the association. Since January this year, 99 press passes had been issued under a strict vetting process in accordance with the association’s constitution. There has never been a scenario of “over-issuing” of such passes. The police had also failed to provide any proof to reflect problems in the HKJA’s issuing of press passes and recruitment of members.
The amendment allows authorities to decide who are reporters, which fundamentally changes the existing system in Hong Kong. It will be no different to an official accreditation system, which will seriously impede press freedom in Hong Kong, leading the city toward authoritarian rule.
In its letter, the police also claimed it had often exchange views with the media industry on improving reporting arrangements. In fact, the police chief had repeatedly turned down the HKJA’s request for meetings. We simply cannot understand the police’s statement that they have heeded our views.
We must point out that Article 27 of the Basic Law states clear protection for press freedom in Hong Kong. For years, freelance reporters and media outlets not registered with the government have made truthful reports to serve the wider public. The police must not use administrative means to censor the media and in doing so, harm the rights of Hongkongers.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Citizen News Staff Union
Independent Commentators Association
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom
Ming Pao Staff Association
Next Media Trade Union
RTHK Programme Staff Union
September 22, 2020