On 28 July there were serious clashes between police and protesters in Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan. While reporting the clashes, front-line reporters found the police had fired tear gas towards them multiple times. Some of the tear gas canisters exploded very close to them. A number of photojournalists were directly hit by the tear gas canisters and sustained injuries. A reporter was asked by a police officer to show her ID card. The officer claimed she was “assisting the riot”. During the series of large scale confrontations between police and protesters in the last month, reporters also found that police officers had frequently used strong light to point at reporters, obstructing their reporting and causing harm to journalists’ eyes. These actions have seriously undermined press freedom. We condemn these actions by the police against reporters and urge the police to immediately address the issues relating to the question of abuse of police power.
Last night, police officers fired tear gas at Connaught Road West and Des Voeux Road West, with multiple rounds fired towards and exploded just beside front-line reporters. At the junction of Jubilee Street and Connaught Road, the police continuously fired tear gas at the reporters at one point creating heavy smoke in the air that a number of reporters felt uncomfortable even though they were wearing respirators and goggles.
In one occasion, a journalist from FactWire was asked by protesters whether she needed to go down the staircases to the MTR station. As the journalist was wearing a mask, she waved her hand to indicate that she would not go into the MTR station. Because of that, police officers claimed she was assisting in the “riot” and asked to see her ID card. The journalist was let go after showing her press card. In the various confrontations between police and the protesters since June, the police have been intentionally and frequently using strong light to shine at reporters, obstructing journalists from filming.
We stress that journalists present at the scenes were wearing reflective vests and helmets printed with the word “Press” and having shown their press cards. These outfits should make them easily identified by the police as journalists and being distinguished from protesters. The above incidents reflected the situation that some police have intentionally used methods including violence to obstruct journalists’ reporting. Such actions have seriously undermined press freedom. We condemn the police actions against journalists, and urged the police to address the abuse of police power.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
29 July 2019