The High Court dismissed a challenge by HKJA over claims that police acted unlawfully by failing to make sure the media could carry out their duties while reporting on protests. HKJA is extremely disappointed with the court’s decision. We will decide on our next course of action after studying the judgement with our legal team.
Judge Anderson Chow said HKJA adopted an assumed facts approach, and had submitted 13 accounts from affected journalists saying they were ill-treated by police officers. Although the testimony included a large number of photos, live footages as corroborating evidence, the court believed that the content of the testimony could not be safely confirmed because the reporters were not allowed to testify on the witness stand during the trial. Despite this, we believe that the public can still judge for themselves whether the police obstructed reporting and used excessive force against reporters from a large number of videos and photos.
Although the court did not make a ruling on whether the police’s actions violated the Human Rights Act and the Basic Law, and did not question the credibility of the content raised by the police. But the judge had ruled earlier in the same case on the police officers failure to display the unique police number and the current police complaint mechanism violates the requirements of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. Under the “fundamentally flawed” complaint system of the police, it would be extremely difficult to challenge police misconduct using the current complaint mechanism or the time-consuming legal process.
Frontline reporters have been facing obstruction and interference by the police in their reporting work since mid-June. It is an ironclad fact that the police have used abusive and insulting remarks against reporters, used high-intensity lights and strobe lights to interfere with video recording equipment, unreasonably drove reporters away, and deliberately blocked reporters’ sights. Some reporters were beaten, kicked, and being sprayed with pepper spray; some police officers fired tear gas and threw tear gas canisters at reporters; some even used water cannon carts, rubber bullets and cloth bags aimed at reporters.
In the past year and a half, HKJA has issued more than a hundred statements, letters and complaints to the The Independent Police Complaints Council, hoping to arouse the attention of the Commissioner of Police and the Hong Kong Government. However, neither has taken effective measures. We are grateful to the legal team for their selfless help, and would decide the next course of action after studying the judgment with our legal team.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
21 December 2020