FCC Statement Condemning Increasing Acts of Violence Against Journalists
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club strongly condemns the increasing number of incidents involving police violence against journalists covering protests in Hong Kong. Assaults of journalists are becoming more serious, undermining the media’s ability to do their jobs and Hong Kong’s commitment to freedom of the press.
The FCC expresses grave concern over multiple eyewitness reports and widely circulating video footage that appear to show police officers spraying pepper spray at close range at numerous reporters and photographers on Saturday night around 10:30p.m. on Nathan Road, including spraying at least two journalists directly in the eyes. Accounts appear to show journalists with press identification—clearly marked vests and helmets–in an area with no protesters directly present near the scene. They did not appear to be interfering with police operations.
These actions by members of the Hong Kong Police Force are unacceptable and constitute a violation of the right under Hong Kong law for journalists to cover protests free of intimidation or violence by authorities.
The repeated and consistent reports of police violence against journalists covering the protests have become too many for the Hong Kong government and the international community to ignore and seem to be increasing in frequency. Given this deteriorating situation, the FCC reiterates its demand that the government follow the advice of numerous prominent Hong Kong organizations, along with civic and political leaders, and establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all forms of violence and intimidation directed at journalists since the start of the protests in June. We urge that such investigations be thorough and transparent.
The FCC also calls on the Commissioner of Police to publicly address these worrying reports and to clearly state that the HKPF respects freedom of the press and the right of journalists to cover events, including police operations, unfettered and free of violence and threats.
The FCC regrets that the Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai Chung has failed to respond to its letter to him of August 11 proposing measures that could rebuild confidence between the police and the media, and inviting him to speak at the club.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club stands with the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Hong Kong Photojournalist Association and with freelance and unaffiliated journalists in condemning acts of violence directed at the media and in demanding the Hong Kong government and police respect Hong Kong’s long tradition of press freedom.