The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, expresses its deep concern over reports of the Police Department’s revision of its definition of media representatives. The FCC expresses its solidarity with the organisations signing this statement and with journalists in Hong Kong – including freelancers, photographers and student journalists – and is opposed to any actions by government authorities that would impinge on freedom to work without fear or intimidation. Here is the joint statement.
Joint-statement: Hong Kong press unions and associations sternly opposes the police’s unilateral revision of its definition of media representatives under the Police General Orders
The Hong Kong police today wrote to four media associations, announcing that it will revise the definition of media representatives under its General Police Order. Under the amendment, media workers holding the Hong Kong Journalists Association and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association press passes are no longer recognised as media representatives. Only those working for media outlets registered with the Hong Kong government, or “renowned and well-known” non-local outlets will be identified as media representatives.
We sternly oppose the police’s hasty decision. We must point out that the relevant guidelines have been in place for years, and that they were a product of detailed discussion between the police and media representatives.
Today, the police have broken this relationship by planning a significant amendment without first discussing and consulting our sector. We demand the police to scrap the relevant amendment, or we will respond by taking any possible and necessary measures.
In the letter, the police cited the discovery of “fake reporters”, whom they said obstructed and attacked officers, as a reason for the amendment. But the police had not provided concrete proof of these incidents, which, even if true, are unconnected to the HKJA and HKPPA. It is unreasonable for the police to make the amendment against the two associations.
Hong Kong Journalists Association has 604 full members, who are eligible to apply for a press pass from the association. Since January this year, only 99 such press passes had been issued under a strict vetting process in accordance with the association’s constitution. There has never been a scenario of “over-issuing” of such passes. The police had also failed to provide any proof to reflect problems in the HKJA’s issuing of press passes and recruitment of members.
The amendment allows authorities to decide who are reporters, which fundamentally changes the original system in Hong Kong. It will be no different to having a government accreditation system, which will seriously impede press freedom in Hong Kong, leading the city toward authoritarian rule.
In its letter, the police also claimed it had often exchange views with the media industry on improving reporting arrangements. In fact, the police chief had repeatedly turned down the HKJA’s invitation for meetings. We simply cannot understand the police’s statement that it has heard our views.
We must point out that Article 27 of the Basic Law states clear protections for press freedom in Hong Kong. For years, freelance reporters and media outlets not registered with the government have made truthful reports to serve the wider public. The police must not use administrative means to censor the media and in doing so, harm the rights of Hongkongers.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographer Association
Independent Commentators Association
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom
Ming Pao Staff Association
RTHK Programme Staff Union
Citizen News Staff Union
September 22, 2020