IFJ condemns Hong Kong Police for using force against media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), and the Hong Kong Radio Television Programme Staff Union in condemning the Hong Kong Police for abusing their powers and preventing media personnel from carrying out their duties.   In the early hours of June 14, a group of protestors were taken away by police after they unsuccessfully stormed the Legislative Council Building. The protestors were trying to stop the council’s Finance Committee from unilaterally changing the rules covering question time, and moving to pass a bill for government funding for preliminary work on development plans in the New Territories.   Journalists, photographers and members of camera crews from Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), Hong Kong Television Broadcasting (TVB) and Cable Television were injured during the scuffle. Police also used pepper spray without warning.   A cameraman from RTHK, who has been identified only by his surname, Ng, was taken away by police even though many journalists called out that he was a journalist. Ng was taken away by six police officers while he was filming them removing the protestors. An officer grabbed him around the neck from behind, while others grabbed his arms and legs. Officers punched him several times. After police checked his press card, Ng returned to the scene but was unable to resume his original duties.   Members of the public also interfered with the media personnel. A cameraman from Cable Television was kicked repeatedly by unidentified people.   A journalist told the IFJ: “The superintendents were the ones who blocked the media from carrying out their duties, while the frontline policemen were quite nice and respectful towards us. Orders to push or remove journalists came from the superintendents, even though they knew that we were taking images or filming.”   The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “We understand that the police have a job to do, but this does not mean they can casually abuse their powers by blocking the media. In particular, it has been clearly stated that the police must assist all electronic media in exercising their duties.”   We urge the Hong Kong Police Commissioner to demand that all superintendents uphold press freedom, which is enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Hong Kong Human Rights Ordinance. They should not be able to use violence and block the media while using the excuse that they are “carrying out their duties”.   We also urge the general public of Hong Kong to respect the media while they are exercising their professional responsibilities under the rights that are set out in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Hong Kong Human Rights Ordinance.