Police on Thursday expressed regret at news organisations it said had published or broadcast false information given by an anonymous witness who claimed to have seen a shooting in Tai Po on December 20.
In the latest in a series of videos the force has been uploading on social media highlighting the dangers of ‘fake news’, the force appeared to accuse RTHK and Apple Daily of putting out unverified information.
While the spokesman did not specify either organisation, screencaps of both their websites were shown beside the speaker as he lamented their use of the witness’ ‘ridiculous’ allegations.
At issue is an interview given by an anonymous, self-proclaimed restaurant worker who said he had witnessed police shooting a suspect on December 20.
He had refused to appear on camera, but told reporters in a rambling interview that an officer had tried to put a gun in his pocket, or wipe his fingerprints off it, before putting the weapon down after he scolded the policeman.
Police said his statements are “certainly false”, and added that many people have been intentionally putting out false information to malign the force to incite public hatred against police, and to obstruct officers’ work.
The force had said that a man had opened fire on police on December 20 as they confronted him.
The spokesman said it was regrettable that a “certain mainstream newspaper” had quoted this man’s ridiculous allegations without any fact-checking – while displaying Apple Daily’s news website.
He went on to say that some “public radio, without fact-checking, broadcast this man’s accusations” as a screenshot of a story posted by RTHK’s Chinese news service appears beside him.
He then said police urged news organisations to “spend effort on fact checking.”
In response, an RTHK spokesperson said many media organisations, including the broadcaster, had interviewed witnesses on the night of the shooting. A news report broadcast by RTHK had, in addition to a clip from the ‘restaurant worker’, also aired another soundbite from another witness who rebutted his allegation that police had fired shots.
The spokesperson added that the report did not mention anything about planting evidence, and urged police to come forward with more information at an early stage if they believe an interviewee had given false information.
This is the second time this week that police appear to have taken issue with reports by the public broadcaster.
On Monday, the Police Public Relations Bureau had sent a letter to the Director of Broadcasting saying that it was inappropriate for the station to say that protesters had “hit back” at officers, because it implied that police had proactively used force against demonstrators during a protest in Central last Sunday.
RTHK in turn said it was “regrettable” that the police had accused it of trying to “mislead” its listeners, saying the wording – in Chinese – of “hitting back” was simply a factual description of what happened.
'Police regret fake news on mainstream media'
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