Police condemned for 'declaring war on media' - RTHK
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Police condemned for 'declaring war on media'

2019-07-08 HKT 11:21
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  • Police condemned for 'declaring war on media'
Lawmakers and journalists have blasted action by the police during the operation to clear the Mong Kok area of protesters on Sunday night, saying officers used excessive force, assaulted reporters and stopped journalists and cameramen from reporting what was going on.

The Journalists Association and the Press Photographers Association on Monday issued a joint statement accusing the police of obstructing the press and even assaulting journalists during the clearance operation.

The two associations said most journalists were wearing their reflective vests and had ID indicating they were members of the press. They had repeatedly made their identity clear and were cooperating with officers who told them to retreat, the statement said.

However, officers repeatedly used their shields to push and shove journalists and their cameras, shouted at them and physically attacked them, the statement said, adding that the officers’ acts had “seriously hampered press freedom”.

The statement said that in one case, a plain-clothes female officer elbowed a journalist from HK01, but when the journalist questioned why she had done that, the officer disappeared behind her colleagues without showing her warrant card to the journalist.

The force’s media liaison department later apologised to the journalist and asked him to file a complaint through “normal channels”.

A female journalist from Apple Daily said a male officer shoved her, and accused her of pushing his colleagues. Other officers pulled that policeman away, and again, he was not displaying his warrant card or police ID on his uniform.

A Metro Radio reporter said an officer yelled at him: “journalists have no privileges, you back off when I tell you to”.

The associations also noted that when police advanced their cordon line, despite the fact that only journalists and no protesters were remaining in the area, officers still pushed and shoved them with shields.

The statement noted that officers had been rude and physical towards reporters during recent protests, and called on the police not to abuse their power, to respect journalists’ rights, safeguard freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.

The statement came after several pro-democracy lawmakers accused the officers of being rough with reporters.

The Democratic Party’s Roy Kwong said it was not necessary for police to be so rough during the clearance operation, because only lawmakers and journalists were left at the scene. He added that the attitude of the force was almost like it was “declaring war against the journalists”.

The Civic Party’s Jeremy Tam said he had seen journalists being barred from a scene where officers had allegedly pinned down a protester. He also said that some officers had been shouting verbal abuse at lawmakers.

Au Nok-hin from Council Front said officers should have allowed protesters who were happy to leave to disperse, instead of rounding them up.