Hong Kong: Police continue to abuse and obstruct journalists

Over the last nine months, journalists in Hong Kong have faced obstruction, interference, violence, verbal abuse and humiliation by the police while reporting. Despite numerous calls by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), the situation has not improved. The IFJ strongly condemns police brutality against journalists and demands the Hong Kong government ensure journalists’ safety.

Police officer orders the media to move back during a protest on January 1. Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

On 2 March, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) issued an open letter to Commissioner for Police, Chris Tang Ping-Keung, raising their concern that the use of force, violence, verbal abuses and humiliation by police against journalists continues to worsen, despite reassurances by the Commissioner and the government that it would be resolved.  Even in recent days, after the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), with drastically fewer protesters and a less tense environment, the “anti-riot police officers still kept targeting reporters at the scene. Some sprayed pepper spray directly at reporters and their lenses. That has become a norm.”

On March 8, two journalists from Now TV were reportedly  pepper sprayed by police, while another journalist from Cable TV was suddenly pushed by police causing her to fall to the ground, according to a statement by Cable TV.

Since June 2019, the IFJ has recorded over 200 violations against the media in Hong Kong, many of which include situations where the police harassed, threatened, and even attacked journalists intentionally, most of which did not comply with the international standard of use of force, including pointing non-lethal weapons above the leg area.  In September 2019, an Indonesian journalistMs. Veby Mega Indah was shot by police in her face causing permanent injuries to her right eye.  Till now, the police have not been held accountable. Connected to this, there is currently no proper archive law in Hong Kong to prevent important government records from being destroyed and ensure they are made public in due course.

The IFJ said: “It is imperative that the Hong Kong Commissioner for Police ensure that frontline officers stop targeting journalists. The government must end police impunity and hold police officers that injure journalists accountable for their actions. A proper archive law is necessary to prevent such impunity and guarantee the public’s right to access information. The IFJ urges the Hong Kong government to take immediate actions on the aforementioned issues.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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