Hong Kong: IFJ joins opposition against “official” press cards

Journalist unions and representative organisations have joined forces to condemn suggestions for a government accreditation scheme for journalists in Hong Kong. The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), have jointly issued a statement with journalist house unions, academics and other freedom of expression advocates to express opposition and concern at the notion of any government administered accreditation scheme on who can qualify to be a journalist. 

Journalists wearing high visibility press equipment Credit: AFP

Reports have circulated through Hong Kong concerning studies conducted by the government and police plans to issue “official” press cards to identify reporters covering protests. In response to allegations of a government’s plan, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said on October 19 that the government had “no intention or plan to start a centralised registration system for journalists”. However, the CEO’s statement contradicts a previous statement made by the Police Public Relations Bureau Acting Chief Superintendent, Kong Wing-Cheung, who told reporters on October 18, “police welcome all solution that can identify journalists.”  Kong went on to reason “police officers have difficulties in identifying journalists on the front line.”
Notably, the majority of Hong Kong media violations reported to the IFJ, journalists have been clearly identifiable through a range of equipment including a high-vis “Press” jackets, helmets and press cards. Despite this, attackers have either purposely targeted journalists or denied their identification as media despite clear “Press” signage. Since the beginning of the protests in June 2019, 80 media violations on journalists have been recorded by the IFJ and HKJA, including 43 attacks, 9 arrests and 1 death. 
The IFJ and HKJA continue to urge journalists to carry their identification in Hong Kong not because it is legally required but to ensure safety. On August 13, a journalist was attacked in Hong Kong airport after failing to produce a press pass when questioned by protestors.
HKJA, which issues IFJ press cards for its members, maintains there is no justification to restrict the identification for journalists. Government controls or accreditation would limit journalist access and enforce arbitrary and ad-hoc determinations of what a state determines qualifies as journalism.
HKJA said: “Journalist unions, groups and academics solemnly oppose any official selection of journalists arrangements, which will inevitably undermine press freedom and the public’s right to know.”
The IFJ said: “Press freedom in Hong Kong is already being tested by police brutality, violence and intimidation. An official selection process imposed by the Hong Kong government will inevitably hinder journalists’ ability to publish information and increase the risks of reporting.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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