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FCC Statement Condemning the Arrest of Freelance Photojournalist

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong condemns the arrest of freelance photojournalist May James, who was asked to remove her face mask by police while covering a protest in Mongkok on Sunday evening, October 27. At the time, she had identified herself as a journalist, wearing a high-visibility yellow vest, a helmet and backpack marked with the word “press” and produced a press identification card when questioned, according to footage of the arrest.

James was searched, arrested and then detained overnight at a police station in Kowloon. She was released early today. As a freelance photographer, James has photographed the protests for Hong Kong Free Press, AFP and others news organizations. She has shared her experiences documenting the Hong Kong protests in The Correspondent, the FCC’s magazine, as well as on a recent FCC panel with other photographers and video journalists, where she discussed the risks and responsibilities of her job.

Several other reporters were also required by police to remove their face masks in the course of their reporting duties Sunday night, despite government assurances that journalists would be exempt from the face-mask ban while carrying out their professional duties. These masks are used by reporters to protect against tear gas and pepper spray, and by law, anyone who requires the masks for professional use should be exempt from the regulation. Police appeared to use force when removing the masks and interfered with the work of reporters covering the street protests.

On Sunday night, a representative from the FCC was able to reach out to two spokesmen from the Hong Kong Police Force, including the acting superintendent for the Police Public Relations Branch, to ascertain James’s whereabouts. The contacts were a result of the FCC’s recent meeting with police representatives. Opening this channel of communication was a practical outcome from our meeting with the police and helps in the defence of journalists and FCC members.

The FCC again calls for an independent investigation into police violence against journalists and interference with the media’s right to cover the protests under Hong Kong law. The FCC urges that an investigation should be transparent.

We have expressed our concern about such incidents since the start of the protests in June, yet violence against journalists and interference continue. These incidents, including the arrest of the photojournalist last evening, undermine Hong Kong’s reputation as a place where the media can work freely, without harassment or intimidation.

October 28, 2019

AFP launches 2019 Kate Webb Prize for Asian journalists

International news agency Agence France-Presse has launched the 2019 Kate Webb Prize to recognise exceptional Asian journalists doing difficult and dangerous work across the region. 

Kate Webb. Photo: AFP Kate Webb. Photo: AFP

The contest is open to locally hired Asian photo, video and text journalists, for work published during 2019. 

The winner, who will be selected by a panel of experienced journalists, will receive 3,000 euros (approximately $3,300).

“Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region continue to pose significant challenges for press freedoms, and investigative journalism in particular,” said Philippe Massonnet, AFP’s regional director.

“The Kate Webb Prize aims to recognise and support local journalists who take on those challenges, often without the logistical and protective backing of a large media organisation,” he added.

Freelance reporter Asad Hashim won the 2018 prize for his coverage of the plight of ethnic Pashtuns and blasphemy issues in his native Pakistan.

The Kate Webb prize, now in its 11th year, is named after a crusading AFP reporter who died in 2007 at the age of 64 after a colourful career covering the world’s trouble spots – including Afghanistan.

Please send applications by email to the Kate Webb Prize Jury at [email protected] no later than midnight in Hong Kong (1600 GMT) on November 15, 2019.

For information on how to apply, click here

Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act: The case for and against

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act may work to safeguard the freedoms promised under One Country, Two Systems, but concerns have been raised around the potential economic impact of sanctions on the city.

These issues and others were discussed at the FCC by lawmaker Regina Ip, Legco member Charles Mok, and Tara Joseph, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

Joseph pointed out that the bill, which is currently going passing its way through the US Senate, was simply an amendment to the existing United States-Hong Kong Policy Act and that it demonstrated “strong cooperation between Hong Kong and the US, and shows Washington is concerned about what’s happening here”.

Ip, a pro-Beijing politician, criticised the way in which the bill had so far passed through the Senate, saying that Hong Kong government representatives had offered to give evidence in the same manner as pro-democracy representatives, but had not been invited.

Legco member Charles Mok told the October 24 panel that he felt Hong Kong’s freedoms were being eroded, citing the de facto expulsion of the FCC’s Victor Mallet from the city in 2018 after he hosted a discussion with Andy Chan, founder of the now-banned Hong Kong National Party.

Watch the video of the case for and against

Top tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint

Fly direct, fly less, choose vegetarian meals over meat – these were some of the tips shared during a panel discussion on responsible tourism.

Guest speakers Sonalie Figueiras, founder and editor-in-chief of Green Queen; Impact Travel Alliance Vincie Ho, and author and wildlife photographer Jan Latta explored practical ways to enjoy travel without the guilt of increasing your carbon footprint.

While some solutions appeared obvious, the panel members agreed that much more needed to be done by each of us in order to minimize the impact on our environment.

All panelists highlighted useful resources to help us understand and monitor how we can be greener when we travel. Sky Scanner, for example, now shows your potential carbon footprint when you search flights through its website. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council establishes and manages global sustainable standards and awards accreditation to hotels/accommodations, tour operators, and destinations as having sustainable policies and practices in place.

Another site, Choose.Today offers a subscription that allows you to support effective C02 reduction on a monthly basis. The money goes directly to C02-reducing projects in developing countries that are verified by the United Nations.

A further useful resource highlighted by the panel was the blogging site, In Locamotion, which offers a comprehensive guide to sustainable tourism.

Watch the video

Hong Kong Protests: Experts offer guide to the evolution of weaponry and tactics

The physical and legal risks for journalists covering the increasingly violent Hong Kong protests were outlined by two experts at the FCC on October 23.

Sharron Fast, Deputy Director of Master of Journalism Programme and lecturer at University of Hong Kong, discussed the anti-mask law introduced by the HKSAR using emergency powers on October 5. She said there was much uncertainty surrounding the ban, particularly for journalists lawfully covering an unlawful protest. She also said she was certain the law doesn’t protect freelance journalists and students.

Fast was joined at the breakfast briefing by Stevo Stephen, News Risk Senior Manager for the Wall Street Journal, who demonstrated the evolution of weapons and tactics by both the Hong Kong Police and protesters since the unrest began in June.

Watch the video

The challenges China faces in securing global dominance

China’s foreign relations have come a long way in the last 70 years, but major powers are held to higher standards and more is expected of Beijing, according to an expert on contemporary China.

Professor David Shambaugh outlined some of the major challenges facing China, including how it manages its reputation among its neighbours, and globally.

Speaking at the October 22 club lunch, Prof Shambaugh said another challenge the country faced was its relationship with the United States, which he said had deteriorated in recent years because the previously dominant cooperative element had been superseded with a competitive element. At the same time, China had significantly strengthened its relationship with Russia, he said, a relationship that at its core was driven by anti-Americanism.

“The so-called strategic triangle is back and orientated again at the United States at this time,”  Prof Shambaugh, the Gaston Sigur professor of Asian Studies, Political Science & International Affairs, and director of the China Policy Program in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, said.

He pointed to China’s multibillion-dollar investment in overseas propaganda as an example of its push for soft power but suggested it wasn’t getting a “return on its investment” as it slips down the global image rankings.

Watch the full video here

Video and photojournalists reveal life on the frontline of the Hong Kong protests

A panel of experienced video and photojournalists shared their on-the-ground experiences of covering the ongoing Hong Kong protests at a discussion on October 15.

L-R: Anthony Kwan, May James, Chieu Luu, Aleksander Solum, and moderator Shibani Mahtani. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC L-R: Anthony Kwan, May James, Chieu Luu, Aleksander Solum, and moderator Shibani Mahtani. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The panelists spoke amid increasing concern over the safety of the media covering the protests, after an Indonesian photographer was left blind in one eye from a police bean bag round, and a NowTV driver was allegedly attacked by police and left with injuries.

Photographers May James, who has been covering the protests for a variety of local and international outlets including Hong Kong Free Press and AFP; and Anthony Kwan, a prize-winning photojournalist who has been covering the protests over the past months primarily for Getty, both agreed that arguing with the police during protests was not advisable.

Joining them on the panel were Chieu Luu, video journalist for South China Morning Post; and Aleksander Solum, a senior video journalist at Reuters Video News. The two men agreed that, when recording while tensions are running high, the safety of their teams remains the top priority.

I’m in charge of keeping my team safe – no shot is worth one of my team members getting hurt,” Chieu said.

Statement on FCC Board Members Meeting With Police Representatives

A delegation from the Board of Governors of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club led by President Jodi Schneider met on Oct. 10 with representatives of the Hong Kong Police Force.

The meeting stemmed from a letter the FCC first sent to Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai Chung on August 11. It highlighted a series of grave concerns about the increasing number of incidents of police violence against journalists covering the Hong Kong protests and proposed measures that could rebuild confidence between the police and the media.

Since the FCC sent the letter on August 11 and re-sent it on Aug. 27 and Sept. 30, violence against journalists covering the unrest has escalated — as have attempts by police to interfere with press coverage, which is a right granted under Hong Kong law.

Examples the FCC representatives shared with the police included deliberate spraying of tear gas and pepper spray at journalists as well as attempts to stop the media from filming events, blocking cameras and flashing strobe lights at the press while they are reporting on events.

Most concerning has been the case of Indonesian journalist Veby Mega Indah, who has been left without sight in her eye after she was hit by a police rubber bullet. She was visibly identified as a member of the press and was standing apart from protesters at the time she was hit.

At the meeting we emphasised that journalists have taken steps to clearly identify themselves, including adopting yellow vests, carrying professional identification and marking other gear clearly.

Tensions have risen further since the face mask ban took effect on Oct. 5. The FCC’s position, which was made clear to the police representatives, is that journalists are authorized to wear masks when covering protests on the grounds of professional safety.

The exchange was open and frank. Police representatives acknowledged the FCC board members’ concerns about violence against journalists and attempts to interfere with media coverage, agreed to communicate them internally and asked that we continue to engage in dialogue with the police. The FCC welcomes this opportunity as part of its efforts to promote press freedom and the rights of journalists.

IPI condemns growing violence against Hong Kong press

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today (October 4) called on authorities in Hong Kong to put an end to growing harassment and targeted attacks on journalists covering ongoing protests.

Read the statement here

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