[Open Letter] Press freedom groups condemn harassment of HK journalists during recent protests

Mr. Lai Tung-Kwok, SBS, IDSM and JP
Secretary for Security of Hong Kong Security Bureau
9/F, East Wing, Central Government Offices,
2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar, Hong Kong
 
Cc: Andy Tsang Wai-Hung, Commissioner of Hong Kong Police Department
Leung Chun-Ying , Chief Executive of Hong Kong

Dear Mr. Lai:

We, the undersigned freedom of expression organizations and media associations across the South East Asia Countries, condemn the actions of some Hong Kong police officers who have abused their powers to beat up journalists and protesters.

On 27 September, police harassed and manhandled a number of Hong Kong journalists who were covering dozens of students trying to break into the Hong Kong Government Headquarter Complex. During the scuffle, journalists were singled out as some of them were wearing press cards or holding microphones with a media logo.

On 28 September, journalists exercising their duty to report were among the victims as police fired 87 tear gas canisters and unleashed pepper spray towards unarmed, peaceful protesters of the Occupy Hong Kong Movement. As a result, many journalists choked, making it hard for them to continue their duties.

On 3 and 4 October, violent clashes happened in Mong Kok, Kowloon where numerous Occupy Movement protesters were verbally harassed and threatened by masked men. These men assaulted or threw water bottles at journalists when they tried taking photos or footages of the attack. In Admiralty, a journalist of Radio Television of Hong Kong was assaulted by a plain clothes police officer. At the time, the journalist was holding a microphone with the RTVHK logo. A number of journalists who complained to the police about the attack were unable to get assistance.

From 11 to 15 October, hundreds of counter-protesters (against the Occupy Movement) and their vehicles blocked the building of Next Media, which prevented their staff from taking shuttle bus rides back back home, and to deliver newspapers to the retailers on time. Journalists were verbally harassed or manhandled by protesters when they were trying to report the case. Counter-protesters simply ignored the injunction order issued by Hong Kong High Court to stop them from creating further nuisance. During those days of nuisance, only a handful of policemen were deployed to contain counter-protesters. At the same time, many Next Media staff, particularly those in senior management, were barraged with nuisance phone calls, literally every minute. Also that time, Apple Daily, the online newspaper of Next Media, was the target of a number of cyber attacks.

On 14 October, journalists were verbally harrassed by counter-protesters who were trying to clear areas formerly used by Occupy Hong Kong protesters.

On 15 October, an online journalist was assaulted by policemen who were trying to clear the protest zone. They disregarded his appeals for them to stop and respect his work as a journalist. The assault left him with bruises on his left hip, neck and back. In the same incident, a social worker protester was assaulted by seven policemen in a dark corner, leaving him bruised all over his body. During the clearing action, police used pepper spray again and wielded batons to beat unarmed protesters while also arrested 45 demonstrators.

The attitude and action of police towards peaceful demonstrators and journalists are clearly unacceptable. There is no legitimate reason to allow police to abuse their powers and violate human rights protected by both international law and the Hong Kong constitution.

We urge you, as the Secretary for the Hong Kong Security Bureau, to remind all policemen of their duties to protect the safety of citizens, and uphold human rights. At the same time, we urge you to remind all police officers to respect the role of media in reporting the truth, and uphold the principle of press freedom in dealing with the media.

We urge you to conduct an investigation into the abuse of powers by police officers and to ensure that similar incidents will not occur in the future.

Sincerely,

  • Nica Dumlao, Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA)
  • Center for the Study of Communications and Culture, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
  • Free Media Movement, Srilanka
  • R. Kristiawan, Tifa Foundation Jakarta
  • Donny B.U., ICT Watch, Jakarta
  • Yap Swee Seng, Suaram, Malaysia
  • Achara Achayakachat, Thailand
  • Raymond Palatino, Philippines
  • Marianna Tzabiras, Canada
  • Khouth Sopheak Chakrya, The Phnom Penh Post,
  • John Rainier M. Antiquerra, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
  • Jelen Paclarin, Philippines
  • Sonia Randhawa, Center for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
  • Pak Li Yun , Empower
  • Al Alegre, Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), Philippines
  • Niki Cheong, Malaysia
  • Chen Shaua Fui, Malaysia
  • Uihua Cheah
  • Braema Mathiaparanan, MARUAH, Singapore
  • Sothoeuth Rith, Cambodia
  • Sorthy So, Cambodia
  • Tonyo Cruz, Philippines
  • Wisnu T. Hanggoro, Indonesia
  • Maria Chia Abdullah, Bersih 2.0, Malaysia
  • Sampath Samaraluon, Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka
  • Metanathan al Nackeeran, yourwebsafety.com
  • Zurairi AR, Malay Mail Online, Malaysia
  • Engage Media
  • Eko Maryadi, Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia
  • Ding Jo-Ann, Center for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
  • Chak, cilisos.my, Malaysia
  • Srey Sopheak, freelance journalist, Cambodia
  • Neilly, blogger
  • Eng Sokha, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
  • Jack SM Kee, Alliance of Progressive Communications
  • Nai Nai, Burma
  • Kulachada Chaipipat, Thailand
  • Edgardo Legaspi, Philippines
  • Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)