[SEAPA signed on to this open letter to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiated by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and signed by over 20 free expression organisations and unions representing journalists worldwide. Source: IFEX]
We, the undersigned freedom of expression organisations, join the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in condemning the actions of the authorities responsible for banning Hong Kong reporters from covering the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings in Bali in early October and for treating the journalists as “a security threat.”
On 6 October 2013, as Philippine President Benigno Aquino made his way to the conference, four Hong Kong reporters, standing on the sidelines, asked for his comments on the 2010 Manila hostage siege.
They asked if his government will apologise to the victims and their families for Manila’s handling of the siege which left eight Hong Kong citizens dead in 2010.
The journalists are from the Hong Kong government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the Commercial Radio and Now TV.
The questions were asked because the issue had been raised by others and this was the first time President Aquino appeared at an occasion at which Hong Kong journalists were present. President Aquino walked away without making any comments.
APEC officials immediately seized the journalists’ accreditation and barred them from the meetings. All staff members of Now TV staying in Bali were also disqualified from covering the APEC events.
On the day after, journalists from both the RTHK and Now TV found themselves followed by Indonesian officials. The officials had also stopped the Now TV journalists from returning to their hotel on the grounds that it was within the restricted area. The journalists were taken to a police station and kept there for an hour before they were allowed to collect their personal belongings from the hotel and forced to move to another one.
The Indonesian authorities maintain that the Hong Kong journalists’ questioning of Aquino is tantamount to a “security threat” while the Filipino authorities claim that the “loudness” of the journalists’ questions was a form of aggression. Aquino later told press in Bali that he agreed with the expulsion of the “very aggressive” journalists.
Their treatment of the Hong Kong journalists shows an outright contempt of press freedom.
It must be stressed that the reporters were gathered in an area designated by the authorities. The questions raised were neither embarrassing nor sensitive. By any yardstick they were par for the course.
The Indonesian and Filipino authorities’ new definition of “security threat” is alarming not just for the media of Hong Kong but for journalists worldwide.
We therefore condemn such harassment of journalists and urge the organisers of the APEC meeting to respect the rights of the press to cover any APEC summits.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen/Alliance of Independent Journalists
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia
Committee to Protect Journalists
Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
Public Association “Journalists”
Reporters Without Borders
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Association of Taiwan Journalists
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), New Zealand
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia-Pacific
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Nepal