Police arrested Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of Next Media, and its senior staff members this morning. Soon after the arrest, hundreds of police officers raided the newspaper’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O. Media organizations and groups expressed shock and demand the police explain as soon as possible the purpose and legal basis for the large-scale search of the newspaper’s premises.
Hundreds of police officers entered and searched the Next Media Headquarters this morning. They set up cordons with orange tape, questioned journalists and took down their personal information, with everyone’s belongings having to be searched before entering the premises. Officers even rifled through notes and papers on reporters’ desks. Their actions ignored the existing mechanism for searching journalistic materials and violated the privacy of journalists.
As the Fourth Estate, members of the press shoulder the responsibility of reporting the truth, revealing abuses of power and injustice in the society. It is very important for the media to protect their sources of information. Arbitrary search of journalistic materials by police will have a chilling effect on the media and may weaken the monitoring function of the media and severely undermine press freedom. As such, any search of media organizations by law enforcement bodies must prove that there is overriding public interest needs. We demand Hong Kong Police Force to explain the purpose and legal basis of the raid as soon as possible, otherwise the search should be stopped immediately.
During the raid on the newsroom, Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) blocked several local and international media outlets from a press briefing outside the Next media headquarter. PPRB pointed out in response to reporters’ enquiries that the scene was not spacious and could only accommodate a few media. Therefore, they only invited some local, large-scale media that have not hindered or threatened the police in previous police operations to attend the briefing. We express our strong dissatisfaction, and point out that the PPRB’s approach is no different from media screening, which tramples seriously on press freedom.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Independent Commentators Association
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom
Ming Pao Staff Association
Next Media Trade Union
RTHK Programme Staff Union