The police on Tuesday said they are planning to stop recognising reporters with credentials from local media organisations, saying they will in future only treat journalists as such if they are registered with the government’s Information Services Department, or are a member of an internationally-known media group.
A letter from the head of the Police Public Relations Branch, Kenneth Kwok, to several journalists’ groups said the force is to officially amend the definition of ‘media representatives’ in the Police General Orders, without specifying when this would be done.
Currently, media representatives are defined as including reporters, photographers and television crew members who have identity documents issued by newspapers, agencies, TV and radio stations, or have membership cards with the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association or the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association.
Police have been complaining for months about ‘fake reporters’ who turn up at protest sites, who they accuse of obstructing officers and even attacking them.
Kwok said this has made enforcing the law more difficult, and that the proposed change would assist frontline officers in carrying out their duties.
“After the amendment, the definition of ‘media representatives’ in the Police General Orders would be more clear, and allow frontline officers to identify media representatives more quickly and effectively, so officers can render assistance to media representatives where the efficiency of the operation would not be affected”, Kwok said.
Media groups including the HKJA have repeatedly accused the police of a host of abuses against frontline journalists, including using unnecessary force against them, and insulting or illegally detaining them. A number of journalists covering recent, mostly non-violent protests have been fined for allegedly breaching the government's social distancing regulations.