Hong Kong and Taiwan reporters account of violence on May 11, media condemn police brutality
On May 11, 2020, a total of 7 media unions including the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, the RTHK Programme Staff Union, the Independent Commentators Association, the Journalism Educators for Press Freedom, the Ming Pao Staff Association, and the Next Media Trade Union issued a joint statement requesting an urgent appointment with the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Tang Ping-kueng, regarding the operation in Mongkok on May 10, and requesting the police to immediately curb the unhealthy trend of the police force targeting journalists and suspend police officers who are out of control for investigation.
The following is a Facebook post from the RTHK Programme Staff Union, alleging that on 10 May 2020 in Mongkok during the coverage of a mass event, the police were repeatedly rude, obstructing the coverage and even violently abusing their power. The following is the full text of the union.
What happened on the night of May 10, you need to know!
From the experience of RTHK reporters:
1）After the riot police had subdued the civilians on Shantung Street, reporters went up to film the incident, some of them were pulled away vigorously by the riot police and several of them fell down. Our reporters were repeatedly pushed with shields and batons by the Special Tactical Squad. Suddenly, one of the Special Tactical Squad members shouted at our colleagues twice, saying “RTHK so what” and then pressed his head against our reporter’s head.
2）Police officers pulled up multiple cordons and reporters were unable to capture the scene live. They repeatedly pulled and pushed reporters near the cordon and sprayed peppers in the face of reporters, including our colleagues.
3）Our colleagues were asked to tell personal information such as ID numbers in front of the camera, without allowing them to film the process. Meanwhile, our colleagues were trapped 50 meters away from the camera in a blockade line in a dimly lit environment.
The public and the media need to know:
（1）How will the police use the footage?
（2）If you want to check the identity of a journalist, why not just check his or her identity card? Video recording facilitates real-time verification?
（3）What legislation empowers the Police to prohibit the media from filming in public places?
The above cases of journalists being humiliated and obstructed from reporting are just the tip of the iceberg.
The journalists with cameras in hand facing a large number of armed police officers are like eggs standing in front of a high wall.
We strongly condemn the abuse of power by the police and urge them to respect freedom of the press, regain their conscience and return the public’s right to know. Regarding the “hateful” remarks made by the police in the course of discharging their duties, we strongly urge the police to apologise to the journalists who were subjected to police brutality, and to disclose the identity numbers of the police officers involved, so that the media could take serious follow-up action with the Complaints Against Police Office.
RTHK Programme Staff Union
Police General Orders Chapter 39 Section 39-05:
All officers at the scene of an incident shall:-
(a) facilitate the work of the news media as much as possible and accord media representatives consideration and courtesy; and
(b) not block camera lenses.
Police Procedures Manual Section 39-04:
Police officers should be aware that the media has the right to film or photograph in public places or places visible to the public, even if the action being filmed is a police-controlled operation. Photographers and television crews in particular should be allowed to film in the best possible position, and police officers should, as far as possible, allow the media unrestricted access to any public place like any other member of the public, but not be held responsible for what they say or report. The media should be able to make its own judgment in this regard.
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